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Don't Be Fuelish

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Don't Be Fuelish

Old 3rd Mar 2004, 04:29
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Angry Don't Be Fuelish

Last Thursday (26/02/2004), a jet aircraft belonging to a UK airline took off from a major UK airport, which was CAVOK, to fly to a smaller airport, where snow was falling. The primary alternate was also CAVOK.
The captain elected not to carry any extra fuel for the weather conditions at the destination. On arrival, the destination airfield was closed for snow, with ATC advising that it would be open in around half an hour. The captain elected to hold, commiting himself to land there as holding for that length of time would take him below Minimum Diversion Fuel. When the FO (handling pilot) questioned this decision, he was told to "Shut the **** up", and the captain took control.
After some time in the hold, ATC alerted him that it would now be at least an hour before the airfield was open. The aircraft diverted to its primary alternate, and a PAN call was made. Even after the fuel state dropped below Minimum Reserve, this call was not upgraded to a MayDay.
On landing at the primary alternate, the airfield Fire Service had to escort the aircraft to stand, as it was considered possible that there would not be enough fuel to get there.

The final irony is the identity of the captain: when not flying the line he is the company Safety Pilot...
Since I posted this, I have discovered this version of events was NOT what actually happened. My informant within the company concerned seems to have had his own axe to grind...

Last edited by Stifler; 9th Mar 2004 at 05:17.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 04:59
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Unhappy

Mmmmmmmmm, sounds familiar, although might be someone else altogether.
Any clues.......at all?
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 05:14
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Okay give us some more hints please...
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 05:38
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Typical

How comes that a number of so-called "chief pilots" induce themselves to lose sight of aerial reality after being brainwashed for years by the management, so that they imagine they are seated in an office at the upper storey of company building and forget they are flying an aircraft.

I remember lots of them are still alive because flight engineers knew them and applied a correction to fuel quantity ......
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 08:02
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Arrow

So what?
The Captain ("the company Safety Pilot") chose to fly with the fuel that the company dispatcher - also a supposed specialist - decided was sufficient for this flight.
Many airlines demand an explanation if one elects to carry fuel above tha which is planned.
Most airlines these days treat, and pay, their pilots like 'bus drivers - and so it shouldn't come as a surprise to them when pilots decide to act accordingly.

"On landing at the primary alternate, the airfield Fire Service had to escort the aircraft to stand, as it was considered possible that there would not be enough fuel to get there."
Again, so what?
As long as the aircraft landed at the alternate the p.i.c. has complied with all requirements. If he has to be towed from the runway (of the alternate) to the parking spot due to lack of fuel, then he has absolutely complied with all requirements in accordance with the defined fuel policies. And demonstrated a remarkable knowledge of his aircraft's performance.
IMO, this pilot landed with TOO MUCH fuel, if the engines were still running when he got to the parking spot!
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 08:14
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Only time you've got too much fuel is when you are on fire!
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 08:25
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When the FO (handling pilot) questioned this decision, he was told to "Shut the **** up", and the captain took control
Do they ever say "please"?
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 09:40
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Kaptain M. I must be missing something!

By my understanding your response is so far off the planet, it is disturbing.

Wherever I have worked, Minimum Fuel, is the fuel required to be in the tanks as the wheels cross the fence at the ALTERNATE. This has, in my experience generally been 30 mins at the 1500' holding rate. The various companies I have worked for, have generally nominated a figure somewhat above that, and that figure , given that it is incorporated into the company operations manual, becomes the LEGAL Minimum Fuel.

Where you used to work, eons ago, it was called Fixed Reserve Fuel, was nominated as such on the lodged flight plan,and was required to be in the tanks on landing. (Remember that. The boxes as you went down the fuel calcs, were dest, alt, var res, fixed res.)
The fact that many companies now name it "holding fuel" seems to suck some in, to a misunderstanding of the true nature of the requirement.

To suggest, (by your comment, "so what") that it is OK to hold at a closed airport and throw away the option of a safe alternate, is mind boggling.

Have I misunderstood?
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 10:26
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Arrow

My understanding was the ONLY fuel that you theoretically were REQUIRED to land with is Fixed Reserve (which, as you say "eons ago" was 45 mins reduced to 30 min once airborne).
Theoretically, one needs arrive over destination with ONLY Alt + F.R. (there is no requirement for Alt + Var...or, Contingency). Once airborne, variable may effectively be included as Dest fuel (as was the extra 15 mins of F.R., in the days of 45 mins F.R.).
All other reserves are there to be used if/when necessary due to eg. (decreased) aircraft performance, incorrect met data at the flt planning stage.


However, the F.R. ONLY should be planned to be in tanks on landing. However due to the previous reasons (including a go-around) might not be.

"off the planet"? I don't think so.

By the same token, I believe they are fuel tanks, and NOT air tanks.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 10:44
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Kaptin M.

Fixed is not just "planned" to be, it is "required" to be, in the tanks at the ALTERNATE.

On that basis, your comment "so what" beggars belief.

The "gentleman" concerned held to the extent that he just made it to the ALTERNATE, with zip in the tanks.

"So what" indicates an agreement that what wasdone was OK. You've gotta be joking.

Tac On
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 10:55
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In the company I used to work for, our safety pilot was nicknamed Captain Fumes for treating the fuel tanks as air tanks.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 11:26
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Arrow

It's a brave man who can pass judgement without being in full knowledge of WHY he arrived with the hearsay amount.

Last edited by Kaptin M; 3rd Mar 2004 at 17:14.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 12:29
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TAC on,
Have to concur with Kaptin M who raises some valid points. Whilst operating in accordance with most companies sop's , you'll invariably get the day where you land with reserve fuel, or perhaps a bit less-and yes you'll shout for help if the latter is the scenario. It doesn't happen very often, but it can, and that's the sort of situation, as a professional, you get on and deal with.

rgds,
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 12:45
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Without prejudice to what really happened.

<<the fuel that the company dispatcher - also a supposed specialist - decided was sufficient for this flight>>
What's he/she got to do with it? Fuel is a command decision - not the despatcher, not the chief pilot, not the training captain - it is up to the aircraft commander.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 13:03
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Some guys shouldn't be captains because they are idiots, some others shouln't be because they ignore that they are idiots...

Hi Kaptin M.....
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 14:02
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Kaptin M, don't know which company enjoys the benefit of your services but in my company, minimum diversion fuel, which was included in fuel required; meant fuel which is the sum of alternate fuel and reserve fuel. Reserve fuel meant 45 mins. holding at FL 100. This obviously was not available to our intrepid captain
in question. I'm glad you and I never flew together, I always hated arguing with my captains, which very rarely were necessary.
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 14:16
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Danger

We tend to always believe what our fuel gauges tell us.

The concept of CRM was initiated at a large US airline years ago because of a DC-8 accident in Portland, OR. The Flight Engineer was aware of questionable accuracy with their fuel gauges and expressed his concern-but the Captain seemed unconcerned....until three or four engines flamed out over the city.

Let's hope that none of us must divert to an alternate with either (maybe) reserve fuel remaining at ETA or marginal weather and/or a non-precision approach required, even in flat terrain: NDB anyone?

Certain mountain airports near lakes or rivers can easily have unforecast fog with no alternate fuel loaded. ...glaciers in the moonlight...and fresh snow covering up ALL of the runway lights at an uncontrolled airport.

So it seems silly to plan to land with more than 45 minutes fuel onboard?
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 16:00
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I think you are talking about the united dc8 that crash landed on the highway. Its not that the guages were flawed. They were exactly right. The captain had been burned in a previous crash and was fixated on the subject and developed target fixation. each trip around the holding pattern was burning 5000 lbs of fuel and the captain started his last trip around the pattern with 5000 showing on the guages.

The FE was matter of factly telling the the captain that they were running out of gas, but the light didnt go on till the first two engines rolled back, at which point he said "open the crossfeeds man" but of course there was nothing to cross feed.

The captain had been planning to land on fumes but got target locked and wound up staying the pattern more or less paralyzed. The FO (who can't easily see the engineer panel) was out of the loop.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the overcenter lock had broken on one of the main gears and it was reasonably certain that the gear was going to collapse on landing which is why they were trying to burn down to the miniumum fuel possible.

CHeers
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 16:03
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Lightbulb

Perhaps I'm not too good at conveying my thoughts, so please allow me to try once again.

At the flight planning stage the minimum fuel uplifted will be a total of the following:-
a) estimated trip burn from departure to destination;
+ b) a "variable", or "contingency";
+ c) estimated burn from planned destination to alt;
+ d) any extra due to decreased aircraft performance;
+ e) a fixed reserve.
To this minimum the crew may decide to take extra.

Once airborne, the only fuel that (theoretically) needs to be in tanks over destination is (c) + (e).
As an example, the aircraft may arrive at destination and for a variety of reasons (eg. extended taxi and holding time prior to take-off, stronger than forecast head winds, lower than planned levels, wx at destination, r/w closed at destination, etc, etc) and end up using (a) + (b) + (d).
Now getting down towards having only (c) + (e), a decision is made to divert to planned destination, and ATC advised accordingly. ATC now advise that a clearance is not immediately available, or available only at a much lower level (due perhaps to other aircraft diverting).
So far the crew have done EVERYTHING in accordance with normal procedures, and commenced a diversion to alt. with more than only (c) + (e), but now realise that they are going to use some of the F.R., and hence advise ATC that they require priority due to minimum fuel.

So I believe most of us are in agreement, however there MAY come a time in one's career that it is just not possible to land with the required full F.R., in spite of having uplifted the required fuel and then some.
Who hasn't yet had a single runway destination suddenly become unavailable, after having commenced approach?
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Old 3rd Mar 2004, 16:22
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One issue which hasn't been touched on is the decision to throw away the alternate and commit to landing at destination. Would one really base committing on a snow clearance estimate?
In my company, (which has been criticized recently for its more cautious approach to snow at a small airfield) we use the term "landing assured" as a requirement for committing. In the reported case, if all the facts are correct, this clearly was not the case and this shows very poor judgement on the part of the Captain. No doubt his experiences will be related in his next safety magazine.

ATB, ptc
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