FAA Investigating Delta Jet Fuel-Dumping on Schoolkids

Clay Curtis
January 18, 2020

Radio transcripts of exchanges between Delta Air Lines flight 89 and controllers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) show the pilot being asked if he needed to dump fuel, to which he replied "negative".

Delta flight 89 had taken off from LAX with 149 passengers and was on its way to Shanghai when it turned around and returned to the airport due to engine problems.

While details on the Delta incident are unclear, Soucie said one theory is pilots may have forgotten to dump the fuel until the final approach while doing a pre-landing checklist and discovered the weight of the plane was too heavy. And even if there isn't damage, airlines try to avoid overweight landings because they are required to inspect planes, which puts them out of service.

In this case, according to a transcript from LiveATC.net and obtained by United States media, the pilots were apparently asked by air traffic control whether they needed to hold or dump fuel and replied: "Uh, negative".

Recordings acquired by the Associated Press reveal discussions between the pilot and air traffic control service at LAX.

This time we are going to talk, tell about the aircraft dumping that an aircraft was going to Los Angeles from America. We put it back under control.

The controller then asked if the plane needed to drain fuel or "something".

Furthermore, the pilots did not dump fuel "at an optimal altitude" that would have allowed the fuel to dissipate before it reached the ground, the FAA said.

At Park Avenue's Cudahy Elementary School, firefighters cared for 20 children and 11 adults, Sky Fire spokesman LA said.

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School children in Los Angeles speak out after the scary incident; Jonathan Hunt reports on what happened.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating.

The impacted schools included Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, which had 31 patients; Tweedy Elementary in South Gate, which had six patients; Graham Elementary in the Florence-Graham area, which had one patient; and San Gabriel Elementary in South Gate, which had six patients. The school was located around 25 kilometres east of the airport.

"Most pilots choose not to dump fuel unless the emergency really dictates it", Aimer said.

Aviation experts said it is always best to drop fuel from a higher altitude or over the sea rather than neighborhoods and schools.

Dumping fuel is a rare but not unprecedented practice. "They may have decided, 'We don't have time to fly higher and dump the fuel, we need to get the fuel off now and get back down to the runway, '" Martin said. "I know that there are a lot of questions about the process that was followed and those kinds of things", said Dana Debel, Delta's managing director of government affairs.

The city of Cudahy plans to host a town hall Friday to discuss the fuel dump.

The school district said in a statement that paramedics were immediately called to treat anyone complaining of "skin irritation or breathing problems" and that its environmental health and safety office also responded.

All the jet fuel has since evaporated, and affected schools returned to normal schedules Wednesday. "Some exposed individuals have experienced mild symptoms such as skin irritation and upper respiratory irritation such as cough", the department said in a statement.

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