Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020

Delta pilot didn't tell ATC about plans to dump fuel

A Delta Air Lines pilot didn't inform air traffic control it planned to dump fuel during an emergency landing back at Los Angeles Airport.

In an ATC audio recording, the pilot was asked if 'you don't need to hold to dump fuel' but replied 'negative.'

That has raised questions about the pilot's subsequent actions.

The pilot broke from normal protocol.

Pilots typically notify air traffic control of the need to offload fuel to reduce weight to enable a safer landing.

A controller would then instruct a pilot to an appropriate area and altitude.

"A review of yesterday's air traffic control communications shows the Delta Flight 89 crew did not tell air traffic control that they needed to dump fuel," the Federal Aviation Administration said.

"In this emergency situation, the fuel-dumping procedure did not occur at an optimal altitude that would have allowed the fuel to atomise properly." 

The FAA investigation is still ongoing.

The Shanghai bound flight developed a technical problem just after takeoff.

The pilot dumped fuel over south LA which fell on several school playgrounds causing minor injuries to dozens of children and adults on the ground.

Delta said it sent a cleaning crew 'to clean all outside surfaces that students could come into contact with' after people were treated for skin irritation and breathing difficulties.

The pilots' actions have left aviation experts puzzled.

"I know that there are a lot of questions about the process that was followed." said Dana Debel, Delta's managing director of government affairs.

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