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Low fuel situation handled poorly by DFW ATC

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Low fuel situation handled poorly by DFW ATC

Old 25th Feb 2007, 16:13
  #21 (permalink)  
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After the loss of the Avianca(?) B707 a declaration of "minimum fuel" was introduced in the USA the idea being to make this declaration BEFORE an Emergency situation arose. On declaring "Minimum Fuel" the controller is obliged to tell you whether there is any unusual delay ahead ..... if you can't accept the delay then you better shout "MAYDAY" I have used "Minimum Fuel" once when a runway was changed at SFO and I was taken out of the approach flow for re-sequencing which involved an exceptional delay / holding at low altitude. The response couldn't have been better and we were re-inserted into the approach sequence to an uneventful landing.
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Old 25th Feb 2007, 20:23
  #22 (permalink)  
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Niknak-"Unless the crew declare Mayday or Pan,no priority is given by ATC"-not true-any half decent controller will assess what he is being told by the crew(especially if non native English speakers) and act accordingly.In the LTMA last week,usual delays for EGLL,foreign national carrier checks in and says"my captain is ill"we didn't go through all that bs about declaring an emergency,just ascertained that the co-pilot was happy to make an immediate approach and he was given priority.
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Old 26th Feb 2007, 00:35
  #23 (permalink)  
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In situations like this, the crew is under a lot of pressure. There is a natural tendency to avoid formal declaration of an emergency and just try and get an informal traffic priority. Unless we hear the tapes ourselves, it's impossible to draw a personal judgement.

However, that said, if in doubt the controllers should query the crew directly with something like "Roger, AA 241, are you declaring an emergency?" That removes all doubt in everybody's mind.

If I had a fuel problem and I was unsure about the actual fuel state of the aircraft, I think I'd default to "emergency" and worry about the paperwork later.
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Old 26th Feb 2007, 01:36
  #24 (permalink)  
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And likewise, the controller has the authority to declare the emergency for the flight crew.
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Old 27th Feb 2007, 06:09
  #25 (permalink)  
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The crew did declare an emergency to the center controller and requested landing 17C with a fuel problem. The center controller did relay the emergency to the approach controller and stated they wanted 17C. That should have been end of story, with the crew getting exactly what they asked for.

When the ATC approach controller simply refused to do what the crew asked, in my opinion the crew should have simply stated what they were going to do and do it.

It is becoming more evident in flying the skies of the good old USA that a lot of ATC folks actually think they are in charge of the aircraft and the safety thereof. It is an arrogance that should have been stopped years ago, but in this instance it is glaringly evident. Our government ATC folks are not in charge of the aircraft, but they are required to assist in anything the crew asks for especially when they have declared an emergency. A whole new mindset needs to be imparted to the government ATC controllers that they are there to help the air crews and not vice versa. If you listen to the tape of the exchange between the approach controller and the aircrew, I think you will see what I mean. Everything is bassacwards.
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Old 27th Feb 2007, 07:48
  #26 (permalink)  
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The skipper of a bloody great aeroplane full of people tells atc that he has a fuel problem and needs to land on the nearest runway... M word or not...
Have just listened to the tape of what was actually said on AVWEB:


(you have to register) and disagree with most comments so far.
The pilot indicates he has an emergency and requires 17C, without actually using the right words. By not using the right words they leave it to the guys on the ground to figure out how serious their situation actually is. I would have to know more about the position of the aircraft relative to the required runway, and to any alternative airports, to guage the approach dudes reply. He says, "Can I suggest a closer airport if you're that low?" To me this indicates there are alternatives and if the flight really has a problem the pilot can go elsewhere for a more expeditious arrival. If the situation is not urgent enough to require a diversion then the approach guy doesn't think it is urgent enough to fark up his sequence to help some spud that can't make up his mind whether to take his own emergency seriously or not.

It is mere speculation to imagine what the same ATC would have done if the flight had called MAYDAY and if there was a more formal exchange between the Center and Approach.

I would pay no attention to the assurances of Ronald Earwig, sounds like butter-em-up PR drool to me.
That should have been end of story, with the crew getting exactly what they asked for.
No, they should get what they NEED.
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Old 27th Feb 2007, 14:54
  #27 (permalink)  
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In the USA at least for the last 40 years that I have been flying the skies if you declare an emergency that is the end of the story. Those are the correct words. The pilot did declare and emergency and did state what he wanted to the center controller who then transferred them to approach and stated they had an emergency and what they wanted. IT IS REALLY NOT UP TO THE CONTROLLER to decide what they want or what they should do. I agree that when the controller ignored what they wanted that the crew should have simply stated what they were going to do and do it.

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Old 27th Feb 2007, 22:57
  #28 (permalink)  

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Command Authority

The controller(s) were clearly at fault here..."land at a closer/different airport" is not an acceptable response to the the PIC emergency request for 17C. "Reprimand/retrain" are not appropriately strong enough post-event fixes for the debacle either.

Having said that and having listened to (at least a portion of) the tapes, I believe the the pilot did not exercise his rightful command authority in a forceful enough way. The Human Factors guys will have to sort that out.

In a very recent personal experience, I lost one of the two available engines that came with the aircraft (with what seemed like important pieces of the machinery departing the aircraft) on intial climb after departure from a major NYC GA airport at MTOW(what else). After securing the engine but unsure of secondary effects(like fire) , an emergency was declared with Departure Control along with the information that we would return to the departure airport and which runway we would use. The controller acknowledged the emergency status but then stated that XYZ airport (a smaller GA field not the departure airport) was "twelve o'clock and 4 miles and XYZ ATC will be advised of your status". This was tempting for a virtual straight-in but I refused and advised I was initiating a turn back towards the departure airport; it was night-time, I was un-familiar with the XYZ aerodrome, did not have landing charts immediately available, did not know the AFRS status/availability, and did not have the time or inclination to explain or to sort all that out. Controller again attempted to direct me to XYZ instead of the busy departure airport (at peak time of 6 PM local) which was now about 6 miles away; I do not wish impute any motive to the controller's suggestions (which may have been properly motivated), but, at the time, my thought was that the recommendation might be based on our possible interuption of the heavy-iron traffic flow at the departure airport. I then said something like " look, this is an emergency, we are returning to ABC for runway 00 " perhaps with a hint of irritation in my voice. This quickly clarified the situation and a crisp "yes sir, suggest heading of HHH for right base for runway 00 ( a prohibited traffic pattern to this runway in normal ops but now the shortest distance to the stripes) ..cleared to land....equipment rolling" response quickly followed with all further communications being very brief, professional and solicitous of our status. The night landing a few minutes later was uneventful, no fire, engine destroyed, pax relieved to be on terra firma.

I would have liked to have seen a firm "this is what we're gonna do" (unless you tell me the desired runway is occupied or contaminated) approach by the AAL PIC.

But.....All's well that ends well.
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Old 28th Feb 2007, 02:27
  #29 (permalink)  
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Pilot has a serious problem and feels safe enough to continue to an airport that he is familiar with, only to have his decision questioned by ATC, not good.
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Old 1st Mar 2007, 19:25
  #30 (permalink)  
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Two days ago the pilot's report was published concerning the Aug. 31 incident. 20 minutes into the flight the low fuel warning light illuminated. They had 7000 in left, 1200 in right and 1300 in center. Fuel configuration was normal, crossfeed closed. They declared and emergency, opened crossfeed valve and shut off right fuel pumps. They landed with 7000 left and 1200 right, cleared the runway and shut down the right engine and had plane checked for fuel leaks. There were none. Planned landing fuel was 8600, actual was 8200. The cause of the imbalance was a faulty crossfeed valve that was open but didn't show open. Right fuel pumps had slightly more pressure than left causing imbalance. Fuel config light should have come on first but didn't. Looks to me like they handled it just fine. Too bad the controller didn't.
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Old 1st Mar 2007, 20:12
  #31 (permalink)  
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A310 Driver:

I think you are correct. While it can be helpful for ATC to point out other options, the PIC is the boss. It might help us all to just say: I am operating under FAR part 91.3 (or similiar 121 regs) and I WILL BE LANDING ON RUNWAY 17C GET EVERYONE OUT OF THE WAY.

in the incident we have been talking about, 2 things come to mind. Minding the fuel during climbout. And, did the crew realize after the emergency declaration that the situation was under control and then just didn't cancel the emergency?

During the climbout (highest fuel flow) if the crew had noticed a problem, why didn't they return to departure airport? much less crowded than DFW.
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