Pilots are supposed to dump jet fuel in unpopulated areas, not over neighborhoods

Jan. 15, 2020
Aborted flight to Shanghai dumps fuel over populated area at 2,300 feet, report Samantha Masunaga and Ruben Vives for the Los Angeles Times.

LOS ANGELES - To make an emergency landing, a pilot will try to get the airplane down to its landing weight so there are more options in case of an aborted landing attempt. How and where that fuel dump happens depends on the type of emergency, said Tom Haueter, former director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Aviation Safety, report Smantha Masunga and Ruben Vives for the Los Angeles TimesContinue reading original article

The Intelligent Aerospace take:

January 15, 2020 - Delta Flight 89, en route to Shanghai from LAX, suffered engine trouble and returned to Los Angeles International after dumping fuel to land safely on Tuesday, January 14. While it's currently unknown how much fuel was aboard the Boeing 777 for the international flight, the 13-hour non-stop trans-Pacific flight likely meant the aircraft was laden.

According to the Times, fuel dumps generally occur at 5,000 feet which causes the liquid to vaporize before hitting the ground, but Flight 89's was at approximately 2,300 feet when it was dropping fuel over an elementary school playground.

“The FAA is thoroughly investigating the circumstances behind today’s incident involving a Delta Airlines flight that was returning to Los Angeles International Airport. There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major U.S. airport. These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground,” the FAA said in a statement.

Of course, best practices go out the window in an aviation emergency according to Douglas Moss, aviation consultant, who told the Times that flight captains are “authorized to break any rule in the book. He still tries to adhere to as many of the rules as he can, but the bottom line is his actions must be in the best interest of safety.”

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Jamie Whitney, Associate Editor
Intelligent Aerospace

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