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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 22nd Feb 2007, 23:41
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Low fuel situation handled poorly by DFW ATC

Check this link out;

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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 00:01
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Supervisor makes a bad call = everyone gets retrained.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 00:04
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Talking Learning from Mistakes

Basically good - Ok so some people had egg on their faces for a few minutes - but perhaps its saved a lot of lives in the future. Similar to Air New Zealand (if memory serves) using a potential SNAFU as a learning tool.

Does this mean we are growing up and becoming a mature industry (lets hope so)
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 00:58
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Problem occured - error noted - problem fixed.
Seems to me that is what it should be.
(Controllers no doubt picked up some OT on the retraining - so there was a bonus)
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 01:05
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Not privvy to the tapes, but did they use the M word?

"We are low on fuel, need to get on the ground, have a problem, not sure how much longer we have" etc etc are all open to interpretation.

Declaring a mayday removes any ambiguity in the message you are trying to get across.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 01:56
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I've seen differing views on the problem...one says the x feed valve failed, another a fuel gauge problem

I have to say this: IF the pilots didn't want to land on any runway except the one seven center...they should have insisted and not been convinced to take another runway.

I think some pilot training should be involved too.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 02:42
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In the US, Mayday may or may not be the operative word...

If in fact the crew said or declared a fuel "EMERGENCY", then they should be given all assistance, even if it means diverting or delaying other air traffic in the pattern....

Does anyone remember the "limited English" Avinaca B-707 crew that flamed out at JFK a decade ago?

The FAA's lessons should have been learned there, not in this day and age with a native English speaking crew at their home hub...

No excuse here folks, somewhere in the DFW ATC crew needs to lose their job, or at least be demoted a few grades to entry-level or basic FPL Controller...

And Bomarc, I agree with you...if I thought I was running out of gas, I'm landing....where I feel it's the safest...then I'll let the chips fall where they may....If this crew had flamed out and had an accident, no doubt the Capt would be trashed for not executing his "Command Authority" and ATC would only be listed as a "Contributing Factor"...
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 04:16
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Had to use the "m" word to get it into atc's head that I was not going to continue on an assigned heading due weather years back...have to side with "JTR" on this one..the "m" word does indeed remove all doubt as to the situation..unfortunately the more appropriate "pan" call is not used in the non-standard USA atc environment...
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 04:30
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DI3G, as I mentioned, I have no idea what was said on the tapes, or in fact of the actual details, as opposed to the reported details, however the order of thoughts going through my head would have gone something like...

Am I up sh$t creek in a barb wire canoe, needing to get OTG asap?

Yes it sure seems that way.

Am I getting what I want from ATC having made my situation as clear as I can?


.... "Mayday Mayday Mayday"

No ATC certainly weren't being too helpful at the time, but in the accident report after it all goes quiet due flame out, who would get the majority of the blame? My money is on the guy in the LHS.

I have only flown into the US about 200 times so I am not intimately familiar with the nuances of ATC, particularly DFW.

On a completely different note, where is 411A or whatever his name is. He would usually be on this type of post like a rabid dog.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 06:29
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A little more detail from the Ft Worth Star-Ledger:
FAA retrains air controllers
The Federal Aviation Administration has retrained its North Texas supervisors and air traffic controllers after the improper denial of an American Airlines pilot's request to land at the nearest runway because he thought his plane was dangerously low on fuel.

On the morning of Aug. 30, Flight 489 reported that it was having a low-fuel emergency and needed to land on the closest runway it could reach, which was D/FW's 17C. But that meant it would be landing headed south, the opposite direction of that day's traffic.

The controller was ordered not to disrupt the airport flow. The plane was forced to land on Runway 31R, meaning its crew had to burn more fuel by flying around to the south and landing in the same direction as other planes.
The FAA admits it was wrong. "We know that we did something that we should have done differently," spokesman Roland Herwig said. "We should have given the aircraft the closest runway as opposed to routing him in."
In the end, American discovered that a malfunctioning gauge prompted the emergency and that the plane had plenty of fuel. But that didn't take away from the FAA's mistake, said John Hotard, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based carrier.

"Our pilots have to feel comfortable that they'll receive appropriate help if they ever encounter an emergency such as this one," Hotard said. "It is a serious matter because the pilots didn't know what the situation was at the time when they declared the fuel emergency."

American has talked with the FAA and believes that everything has been resolved, he said.

The FAA held a training session for its local controllers and supervisors, Herwig said. It has already paid off, he said. On Feb. 1, when another incident occurred, the plane was allowed to land on a different runway than normal, temporarily suspending all other flights.

Mike Conely, president of the local air traffic controllers union, said the blame for the Aug. 30 incident lies with the FAA supervisor that day.

"A controller doesn't have at his capability the power to completely shut everything," he said. "It would have been up to the supervisor to do that."
Conely also questioned the training. The FAA mentioned the incident in a memo last year and talked about it during a 30-minute weekly meeting, he said.

"They don't put a lot of emphasis on it," he said. "They don't put a lot of emphasis on people attending, simply because of the shortage of controllers."
Herwig begged to differ.
"We had the emphasis," he said, "and we discussed the different things that needed to be going on."
Local coverage and video with partial audio of AA 489 call here.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 07:26
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I have to wonder exactly what sort of 're-training ' can be necessary here... other than a simple statement to the effect of "do that again and you're in the mangle.

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 , it doesn't leave much room for any response other than to get the thing on the ground bloody fast... the why's, wherefores and maybe's can all be sorted out later at leisure but whatever terminology has been used you don't send the poor b*gger off on a cross country to suck up another 5 tons of fuel.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 13:32
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In the UK, unless you use the words PAN PAN PAN or MAYDAY, you will not be afforded any priority if you have an emergency of any type and that includes fuel.
It was bought in many years ago after a series of incidents where pilots would say or intimate they were short of fuel, just to get in ahead of anyone else.
I am not suggesting that this was the case here, far from it, had I been on duty I would have afforded the aircraft the utmost priority and then, after the event was done and dusted, gone out of my way to ensure that every angle of their performance was examined in the minutist detail.
Their failure to declare an emergency goes against the most basic of ICAO procedures and is probably a reflection of their airlines operating procedures.

As for demoting the ATC staff with the benefit of hindsight, I come back to my original point, the crew didn't act in accordance with International (ICAO) procedures, so it's the crew who should be nailed first for failing to communicate their position clearly - or is that judging them with the benefit of hindsight....
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 14:21
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Their failure to declare an emergency goes against the most basic of ICAO procedures and is probably a reflection of their airlines operating procedures.
...but they did declare an emergency. In fact, the exact words they used were "We need to declare an emergency." Seems fairly unambiguous to me, even without the inclusion of 'Mayday'.

Does anyone know how far out the aircraft was when this occurred, and did DFW ATC have a point when they suggested they maybe ought to be thinking about a closer airport?
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 14:39
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a. An emergency can be either a Distress or an Urgency condition as defined in the "Pilot/Controller Glossary."
b. A pilot who encounters a Distress condition should declare an emergency by beginning the initial communication with the word "Mayday," preferably repeated three times. For an Urgency condition, the word "Pan-Pan" should be used in the same manner.
c. If the words "Mayday" or "Pan-Pan" are not used and you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.
d. Because of the infinite variety of possible emergency situations, specific procedures cannot be prescribed. However, when you believe an emergency exists or is imminent, select and pursue a course of action which appears to be most appropriate under the circumstances and which most nearly conforms to the instructions in this manual.

The above is from the FAA ATC handbook 7110.65.

Hope this helps to clear up any misunderstanding of ICAO vs FAA. What this means is that if the word emergemcy is heard, or thought to be heard it is to be considered the same as a Mayday call.
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Old 23rd Feb 2007, 23:46
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Niknak, I agree with all you've said and would like to emphasize that the crew accepted the directions to choose another runway. Should that happen to me, "Mayday, mayday, mayday..."

In many countries where English is not the mother tongue, nattering about low fuel and a possible emergency will likely be ignored.

I think the use of non-standard phraseology and generally chatting on the radio has (possible) dire consequences and the 'macho' pilot talk de-emphasizing an emergency does nobody any favours!
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Old 24th Feb 2007, 02:35
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I have also read the section from the controller hand book, IMO the word MAYDAY works fine in country's that don't speak English, as an ex-ATC you are trained to fully understand (USA) what the word EMERGENCY means, if he doesn't understand that, he is sure to understand the statement "we have got to get this thing on the ground"

I am not trying to second guess the Supervisors decision but, the problem stands out from the viewpoint of "what if", good that it turned out well.

As far as the nearest runway comment, sounds as if he was tracking from the east and then has an emergency, OK if you have an "emergency" and you are flying over a major airport like Dallas Love, how bad can it be? Just curious.
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Old 24th Feb 2007, 03:47
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Sounds more to me it was handled poorly by all parties...imagine it running out of fuel on downwind and the crew having to explain that if they survived...what a screw-up by all parties concerned
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Old 24th Feb 2007, 19:37
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Handled poorly by both parties is exactly right.

Yes ATC made a mistake. They have admitted it, and retrained to fix the problem.

On the other hand the AA crew made a mistake, and they are pointing the finger at ATC. AA should perhaps revise its training and make sure its crews know how to declare an emergency. Instead they are busy trying to shift blame. Not safe.
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Old 24th Feb 2007, 20:46
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Since no one seems to know how much fuel they landed with, the crew probably was more concerned about fuel imbalance than arrival fuel. If they had a leak probably only one tank was low and they would then land with crossfeeds open. Deciding to go along with the controller must have at that time seemed safe to do or they would have just landed on 17C using their emergency authority. Funny after 6 months the facts are not out.
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Old 25th Feb 2007, 00:45
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"minimum fuel" and "emergency fuel" have specific meaning in the U.S.

It APPEARS the controller didn't respond appropriately, but the pilots should have demanded what they wanted/needed.
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