View Full Version : Low Fuel Emergency - Aberdeen?

6th Jun 2008, 00:06
Does anyone know anything about a Flightlines BAe146 going into Aberdeen last Monday short of fuel? The Captain had apparently declared an emergency because it was met with a full turn out of crash vehicles etc. A colleague of mine was on the flight but the passengers were not informed of any emergency at the time.
I'm interested because i'm a frequent passeger on these flights.

The Real Slim Shady
6th Jun 2008, 09:23
A low fuel emergency and Ryanair aren't involved.

This could have a profound effect on the trolls and morons !!

6th Jun 2008, 13:31
The Captain had apparently declared an emergency because it was met with a full turn out of crash vehicles etc.

Was there a fuel truck among the equipment or why do you conclude fuel emergency?

6th Jun 2008, 14:44

One of the passengers has a spouse working for one of the emergency services involved and that is what was reported to them.....
I asked the question because it all seems to have been kept very quiet.

6th Jun 2008, 15:39
Refuels in SCS for a 40 min flight to ABZ - where's he been to run low on fuel?

6th Jun 2008, 17:27
This particular flight took off from ABZ but could not land at Scatsta due to weather, it then made an approach to Sumburgh but again was unable to land. It returned to Aberdeen and presumably declared an emergency.
Surely all of these possible outcomes should be taken into account when taking on fuel?

6th Jun 2008, 17:51

all such instances are taken into account, but there are a number of factors:

Normally, the captain would take on enough fuel for the trip, at l;east two approaches to the destination airfield, enough fuel to divert to the diversion airfield hold for 40 mins and make a couple of approaches.

However, flights to Scatsta have to take into account that they are likely to be carrying a full load of passengers & baggage and have to land on a very short runway, this means that they will carry less fuel to enable the aircraft to land at the permitted weight or less for that short runway.

This isn't a dangerous practice, because they will be carrying enough fuel to hold, make a couple of approaches, then if necessary, proceed to their nominated diversion airport

In this instance the aircraft couldn't land at Scatsta, couldn't land at Sumburgh and therefore was faced with the highly unusual situation of diverting to their 3rd diversion airfield, i.e back to Aberdeen.
Consequently they would have had little or no holding fuel and were faced with being vectored by ATC in the normal fashion, which would have put them below operationally permitted fuel minima's.

Under the circumstances, calling an emergency is exactly what I would expect and is precisely what is required by the CAA, either by PAN or MAYDAY call.
That calls for a full call out by the emergency services, just in case the aircraft does run out of fuel.
It's easier to have them all there and do nothing than calling on their services after an accident and being too late to help.

Hope that clarifies the situation.

6th Jun 2008, 18:12
Thanks for taking the time to explain, it certainly clarifies things for me.

That's the trouble most of the time, passengers aren't given an explanation of what is happening or what has happened and they are left to think the worst!

Thanks again.

6th Jun 2008, 19:35
I don't think the passengers need to be told, unless the captain is sure that the chance of fuel starvation to the engines is high enough that the cabin has to be made ready for a possible landing on less than 3 engines or a ditching.

It's only going to create panic amongst nervous flyers.

Maybe he could have said afterwards that the emergency services were on standby for "xxx" but why bother. If I had been a pax on the flight, I would simply have asked the cabin crew or flight crew as I disembarked.

6th Jun 2008, 20:26
What about Kirkwall,Wick and Lossie ?

6th Jun 2008, 20:41
Surely all of these possible outcomes should be taken into account when taking on fuel?

They did, hence why the aircraft didn't end up in a smoking hole :p

6th Jun 2008, 22:36
Normally, the captain would take on enough fuel for the trip, at least two approaches to the destination airfield, enough fuel to divert to the diversion airfield hold for 40 mins and make a couple of approaches.

Where is this normal flight planning? How many tons of extra fuel do you carry?

6th Jun 2008, 22:49
Niknak - You describe exactly what I would have expected and what the informed PIC chose to do.

About the only other option would have been to land on a motorway with sufficient minimum fuel. This is what some morons here would recommend I guess.

Johnny F@rt Pants
8th Jun 2008, 09:59
I take it from your post that you've never operated into the Shetlands, because if you had you'd know that the weater turns within minutes. I used to operate the Brit World (RIP) ATP's to both Sumburgh and Scatsa, and it's not at all uncommon to shoot 2 approaches to Scatsta, then one into Sumburgh then end up buggering off back to Aberdeen, only to find that the aircraft 2/3 mins behind you on the approach to both destinations got in without difficulty. It also used to be polisy to take round trip fuel anyway, as fuel in Scatsta was extremeley expensive.

throw a dyce
8th Jun 2008, 10:29
On PD approach the only info we have in that situation,is that the a/c is diverting back to us.It has worked the other end of the room,Sumburgh Approach,but then goes to Scottish.It then comes back to us,and we have to fit it in with all our traffic.If the pilot calls that they are short of fuel,we are required by Mats part 1 to ask if they are declaring an emergency.If not then no priority.
However in real life I have had this situation with this operator recently,and they did not declare an emergency.No priority but I swapped the order round a bit to help.However I was always aware,that this aircraft could declare an emergency anywhere round the radar circuit,and let the tower know as well.
I wonder if the 20mins holding is no delay,has anything to do with it.Perhaps crews operating into PD,see it as a sleepy hollow,and don't account for it.It always comes as a complete surprise to pilots,when I tell them take up the hold,delay less than 20 mins,number 10 or worse.:hmm:

8th Jun 2008, 10:36
In that case, using Sumburgh as alternate doesn't strike me as a very good idea, but what do I know. I wasn't there.

Notso Fantastic
8th Jun 2008, 11:11
It is a very good idea, and you can then decide how much extra you think it prudent to carry that day. It was no great drama, just following procedure. I have operated many times into Wick, Kirkwall and Sumburgh, and i think the guys on the job know how to handle it. A small proportion of flights will inevitably end up short of fuel- this is unavoidable if you want the best efforts made to get in. The whole process was merely procedural. What needs examining is the emergency response to such situations which seems totally excessive at times.

8th Jun 2008, 23:53
Not So,

You are an experienced pilot, I am an experienced atco, so we've both, with experience, gained a 3rd sense for how any given situation is going to pan out and I would wager that in 99% of situations we would concur with the final outcome and we would both be right.

However, with regard to the emergency turnout, we appear to differ.
I think the vast majority of Atcos, pilots and emergency services operators would rather the emergency services be there and be prepared to tackle an event which doesn't actually happen, than to turn up too late to do any good.

We can always send them home if they're not needed, getting them there before they are is the important bit.

9th Jun 2008, 09:08
The Emergency Services would probably be grateful for a "real life" call....

Give them and everyone else on the ground the opportunity to do it for real...

No drama, there jsut in case.

Well done all.

9th Jun 2008, 10:58
As far as the local police are concerened, only very scant details are known initially when the 'shout' comes in. The Police control room is advised by an alert alarm that a full scale emergency(as per any mayday call) has been issued. Its a case of all hands on deck and all available resources straight to the RVP asap. Its not until probably most units are at scene that eventually the actual finer details of the type of emergency are known. Once established, they can always stand units down and resume them to normal duties if necessary.

9th Jun 2008, 15:53

What about Kirkwall,Wick and Lossie ?

Congratulations... you are the only one asking the blindingly obvious question! Not mention Inverness and Kinloss...

So why would you fly past all those perfectly good airfields on the way to ABZ and a low fuel emergency?

9th Jun 2008, 16:26
remoak, sycamore

I don't know what time of day this happened, I suspect you don't either, but looking at METAR history for that date, typical weather at Wick was 400 m in fog and Kirkwall was overcast at 200ft.
I suspect that the crew had a much better understanding of the options than you appear to

9th Jun 2008, 20:59
The weather up north was poor last week. Bearing in mind Scatsta only has an SRA for 24 at best, if they can't get in then there's a chance at Sumburgh on the ILS or LLZ. Failing that, they won't waste time, and more importantly FUEL attempting to get in elswhere if they are marginal, they'd just head for Aberdeen as the facilities are the best (and totally discount the RAF fields,that's a no-go withought prior permission). As payloads can be tight going into Scatsta they may not have much spare for "extra" fuel on top of that which is minimum for the plan, so any sort of delay or hold could bring the level close to minimum if they have had to divert. But the flight would not have departed if there was no where to go / return. Don't forget, the best place to divert would be ABZ after LSI as the pax can be dealt with better there, when a 146 rocks up elswhere things slow down rapidly as the staff there aren't manned up for it ( no dis-respect to them, they do their best when it has happened!), and it usually means they'll be held until there's improvement in the weather up north because the heli's won't be going anywhere anyway!!!

slip and turn
9th Jun 2008, 21:48
Pardon me if I have got totally the wrong impression from reading this thread just the once, but what we seem to be concurring is that it was a low fuel event but that the potential for one is commonplace on this route because the runway at the destination is too short to carry in optimum reserve fuel without sacrificing income ... ('payloads can be tight' says one).

And the local ATSP keeps an eye out for aircraft running short that may not yet have declared emergencies and gives them gratuitous priority when it seems prudent to do so ('third sense' says one), and makes sure everybody is ready at the end of the runway if pilots actually scare themselves enough to call Mayday?

Sounds very much like a community service run on some kind of local say so to me ('best efforts'. someone said, which forgive me sounds like a not so distant cousin of presson-itis).

Is there anything the rest of the world can learn from this operation? I do so hope not ... Third sense or sixth sense I have a nasty feeling it wouldn't translate ... better just let them get on with it and let the locals decide how they like their martinis prepared or their bread buttered.

9th Jun 2008, 22:22
Wrong impression i'm afraid, all I'm saying is that it is like any other low fuel event. I used to work closely with the operation for many years until recently and can't think of any other fuel emergencies, but it could potentially happen to any airline, anytime, usually for reasons outwith the crews control. I was pointing out the reason why Aberdeen is always the preffered diversion after the Shetlands. Fuel will be calculated to do the trip, divert, and extra, but we all know that occasionally that extra may not be enough for some reason or another.. I'm sure it happens to many orbiting in the vicinity of Heathrow.... There are times where the 146's would go around at Scatsta and return direct to Aberdeen if Sumburgh was marginal. They'd only try Sumburgh if they had plenty of fuel on board to get back to Aberdeen if needed - no risks taken, but I'm sure there's no one out there that would really doubt that anyway!!!!! (and a lot of income is wasted on fuel trying to get into Shetland!!!!!!)

Data Dad
9th Jun 2008, 22:23
Sorry, I have read this thread with increasing annoyance and the last contribution from Slip and Turn has tipped me into posting. I was on duty at the Ice Station when this "happened". Weather everywhere in N Scotland was sh1t that day though we were not too bad (ILS helps)

The aircraft couldn't get into Scatsta, and missed an approach at Sumburgh due to the Weather. It also held for some 40 mins (Not sure if this was before or after the Sumburgh attempt) It then had to divert back to Aberdeen. As has been said, Weather at Kirkwall and Wick was no-go. A few of you need to look at a map:ugh: - Sumburgh to Aberdeen is SHORTER than going to Inverness and Lossie is no time saving either let alone the problems of arriving unexpected at a Military Airfield. Shortly after commencing descent into Aberdeen the crew advised that there was the possibility of landing (stronger than forecast headwinds?) with less than the legally required min fuel and in accordance with Standard Procedure declared a PAN. No drama, no hysterics. Also in accordance with STANDARD unit procedures, the appropriate category of emergency was instigated by ATC. The aircraft landed with no dramatics, the emergency services did not go chasing it down the runway spraying foam and life carried on.

All in all, a textbook "By the book" operation by all involved. End of.


9th Jun 2008, 22:27

If the wx was truly that bad, you don't launch with minimal fuel to destinations that are as fickle as Scatsta and Sumburgh. I know, I spent many years operating up there (and into Lerwick/Tingwall). You certainly don't waste time on an approach into LSI, in marginal wx, if you are already very tight on fuel.


The only "facility" that you need if you divert, is a fuel truck. Kirkwall has an ILS as well, if both LSI and KWL are on limits, you go straight back to ABZ if making an approach at LSI is going to make you fuel-critical and there is no reasonable guarantee of success.

It doesn't matter how you try to justify it, ending up with a fuel emergency on such short sectors is just bad airmanship.

Green Flash
9th Jun 2008, 22:37
OK, it's quicker to back to Dyce, in this case. But and totally discount the RAF fields,that's a no-go withought prior permission - WHAAAT?? If the aircraft was nearer ISK or Lossie would it be refused permission? ('Sorry Chum, PPR for emergency landings are a minimum of H24 so you'll have to chuck it in the Moray Firth'??!!)

9th Jun 2008, 22:52
remoak, I know what you mean, but to the bears these aren't short sectors if the weather is bad. it can involve being in the aircraft for over 2 hours, and when I say facilities I mean catering, representatives etc all the things that can be available at places such as KOI, but can take time to set up, especially when they have to deal with their contracts to Logan etc first. Getting the bears back to ABZ can be a priority at times and keeping them fed and watered, I've been on the receiving end of them many times, and that's even using the biggest of them all, Sumburgh!!! I can assure all that sufficient fuel is taken onboard for all eventualities first and foremost, but then comes the best for the operation logistically, and that is monitored every minute during the day and relayed to and from the crew even when airbourne quite easily so that they can make the final decision.

green flash, sorry, I wasn't talking about emergencies, I'm sure they wouldn't refuse. They are just not used for planning purposes.

9th Jun 2008, 23:33

Sure, but you don't need those facilities, all you need is 20 mins for a splash 'n dash to get you the fuel you need to get back to ABZ or wherever safely (ie without having to tell the world you are short on fuel!)

can assure all that sufficient fuel is taken onboard for all eventualities first and foremost

But not on this occasion... right? Missing at LSI on a marginal day is not much of an eventuality, more a near-certainty!

Data Dad

A few of you need to look at a map:ugh: - Sumburgh to Aberdeen is SHORTER than going to Inverness

...by all of two miles. There are a number of reasons why Inverness can be a better bet when the wx is crap.

throw a dyce
9th Jun 2008, 23:48
Correct me if I'm wrong,but if a 146 has to make a flapless approach,then ABZ is too short.That was the case in Air UK days.Something to do with no reverse thrust.In fact didn't a 146 go off the end a few years back.
Also if the weather was iffy that day in the whole area,then why not have an alternate with Cat 2/3 capabilities,Glasgow or Edinburgh.The haar can be just as nasty in ABZ,and we only have Cat 1 ILS.
If ABZ had gone below limits,which creek would they have been paddling up then.

10th Jun 2008, 11:39
As someone who spent 7yrs flying Budgies in that part of the world, (only ILS on 17 at ABZ in those days, VOR at INV,Wick and Kirkwall, SRA at LSI) I think that the correct decision was made by the skipper.

He set off to the destination with an expectation of getting there, makes an approach as the reported vis. is above limits but isn't able to land.
Sumburgh is his preferred commercial alternate (same land mass) and an attempt is made there.
To commence an approach the reported vis. would have led to an expectation of landing.
Unable to land and diverts to his weather alternate ABZ and arrives with above minimum fuel but forsees that he may land with less than minimum fuel and is obliged to declare an emergency.

I made several similar decisions in my time at ABZ and can remember asking for an expeditious return to Heathrow on a JSY (bigger aircraft) after setting off with max fuel (landing weight JSY restricted) when the weather changed somewhat abruptly during the approach - Bournemouth was closed due to a blocked runway in case you ask!!

Yes, it would be nice to carry an unlimited fuel supply and worry about all the possible failures (why stop at just a flapless landing add an engine out and total brake failure) but then no aircraft could fly anywhere.

Was the operation safe and the answer has to be yes.

17th Jun 2008, 10:26
As this situation on this route does not seem to be uncommon i.e. minimum fuel carried for landing onto a short runway, with the diversion not much longer, is this the correct aircraft (146) to use............?. considering also the low numbers of passengers it now seems able to carry into this airport!

17th Jun 2008, 10:39
I think the airlines should decide that for themselves! Declaring a low fuel emergency is not 'OMG, we're doomed! We're running on fumes- nothing on the gauge but the makers name- help!!!!'. It actually means 'we may be, or perhaps are, expecting to land with below Reserve fuel', which usually means 30 minutes. It is a requirement to declare Pan if there is a possibility, or Mayday if you will, but the declaration is mandatory. It is not 'Help!- we have a problem, call out the emergency services'. Just an alert that your fuel situation is low.

I wish they would come up with another term for use here. These days it is grabbed by sensation seekers.

PPRuNe Radar
17th Jun 2008, 12:14
... and armchair pilots ;)