Three and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post about the “barking noise” on the A320. In that post, I did my best to explain the source of the noise and when the passengers are likely to hear it.
The post was well received. According to my stats, it has been viewed over 15,000 times. Passengers hear the noise and search the internet for answers. My post provides them with useful information.
Yesterday, I received the following email and wanted to share it with all of you. My reply to this gentleman will appear below.
Subject: BARKING DOG SOUND
Hi ALL PILOTS,
RE: BARKING DOG SOUND
The problem with you and other plane technicians that have made light of this subject on this and various websites is because you are used to all sorts of strange noises.
I am an ordinary passenger, you know the sort of person you fly from A to B and help pay all your salaries. Let me tell you I was a passenger on an Airbus 319 recently when I experienced the noise you referred to (quite accurately) as a ‘barking dog’ sound for approximately 10 minutes while taxiing to take-off. I have since discovered that this noise emanates from the PTU (a fuel safety device). I and the majority of passengers around me were scared out of our wits. It wasn’t just the noise, it was accompanied by equally horrendous vibrations (all of which were far louder and exaggerated than on your YouTube film on this website). In fact, nobody seems to mention the vibrations on any of the website blogs I have visited. It wasn’t until we landed some hours later that we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Let me inform all pilots,airlines and airline manufacturers reading this that this is a no! no! for passengers (and I am a seasoned flyer). Let me also give you and all other pilots reading this a tip – before you activate your PTU on an Airbus, verbally inform your passengers so at least they know what to expect and let them be assured (if even mistakenly) that all is under control during the flight they are now locked into. If so called ‘fuel safety devices’ cannot be kept to acceptable noise/vibratory levels they should not be used (or allowed by the licensing authorities). As for any engineers reading this, noise is one thing but the accompanying vibrations I experienced could have no end of unknown effects. In my case when the vibration reached its peak a nearby overhead locker flew open ( coincidence?) but fortunately nothing fell out.
I made a complaint to two separate stewards and was told a senior officer would speak to me on arrival at destination. Nobody spoke to me. On arrival I emailed the airline Customer Relations and informed them that unless I had a full explanation as to the cause of the problem and an assurance that the problem had been sorted I would not travel on that plane on my return flight (which I had pre-booked, paid for and was non-cancellable). The reply I received was that they were unable to give me any information …”as this would be a breach of security procedures”. It could be that the noise/horrendous vibrations I experienced was not the norm, in which case why was I not informed? I got the impression that the airline was hiding something. I used another airline for my return flight. I then decided to check Google to see if there was any information out there and to my amazement there was plenty.
I now await with interest comments by others who have experienced the above or are searching the internet as I did.
When I read your email, I honestly couldn’t figure out if you were trolling or looking for legitimate information. Judging from your own words, you intended your comments to be on public display. Therefore, I’m a little confused why you filled out the “contact form” that emails me directly.
I agree that the noise is loud and concerning.
However, I’m not really sure how I became part of “the problem” by attempting to educate passengers on the source of the noise. I flew the Airbus over five thousand hours, but I didn’t build it. You say I’m making light of the subject? I believe I accurately and articulately described the source of the noise and the situations when you will hear the PTU. I used a little humor in mentioning it sounds like a large dog… Is that what offended you? Funny, because you agreed that I “quite accurately” described the noise as a barking dog.
How much did you learn from my post? You describe the PTU as a fuel safety device. It’s a HYDRAULIC pump.
The PTU is an automatic device. It runs during situations described in my post. Turning it off would be detrimental to safety. Also, we cannot make an announcement every time it activates.
You say that the majority of the passengers around you were scared out of their wits? Did you speak to them? Did you take a poll? Since you spent so much time conversing with the people around you, did you consider asking a crew member (flight attendant, NOT steward) if the noise was normal?
I have no idea which airline you were flying, nor the situation they experienced. Maybe there was more to it? Possibly. That’s between you and that airline. My post only addresses the PTU.
I’m just a pilot who flies airliners and attempts to give the public some insight into our profession. My biggest concern is arriving safely home to my family after every trip.
If you have any further LEGITIMATE questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Since his email was addressed to the entire aviation community, please feel free to leave a comment.