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FAA: Delta pilots didn’t seek permission before dumping fuel that rained on…

by Ace Damon
FAA: Delta pilots didn't seek permission before dumping fuel that rained on...

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Delta pilots who bombed-out elementary school playgrounds with aviation fuel Before making an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport, it did not notify air traffic control of the need to abandon the fuel and did not dump it at an ideal altitude, the FAA said on Wednesday.

Pilots are usually directed by controllers to an appropriate area to dump fuel, a protocol that did not occur on Tuesday, the FAA said in a statement.

"The FAA continues to investigate the circumstances behind this incident," the statement said.

Delta released national news on Tuesday when the pilots of flight 89 bound for Shanghai threw the fuel before making an emergency landing moments after takeoff. Delta said the two-engine Boeing 777 suffered engine problems.

Dozens of people at the site, including students from several elementary schools, were treated for eye and skin irritation, Los Angeles County firefighters said. Decontamination stations were installed, but no injuries required hospitalization, officials said.

Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transport Safety Council, said it may be too early to judge the decisions of a pilot trying to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew.

"A 777 flying nonstop to Shanghai is absolutely loaded with fuel," said Goelz. "So loaded that landing immediately after takeoff poses a significant danger."

Goelz, who is not involved in the investigation, said the guidelines generally require the fuel to be thrown over the water and / or at an altitude of 10,000 feet so it can disperse and minimize environmental damage. But the rules change for a very heavy plane that needs to get back to the ground, he said.

An unidentified girl covers her mouth when going out with a relative from Park Avenue elementary school in Cudahy, California, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

Goelz said that every pilot knows the story of Swissair Flight 111, a New York MD-11, bound for Geneva, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia on September 2, 1998. None of the 229 people on board survived. The crew had called an emergency, but it was flying away from an airport, so it could pour fuel over the water when it crashed.

"Pilots know that when you have a problem that threatens the aircraft and needs to get rid of the fuel, you get rid of it quickly," he said. "You don't want things like that (contamination) to happen, but the alternative is just too terrible."

The FAA said it is investigating the fuel dump, noting that the procedures require that fuel be dumped over "designated depopulated areas, usually at higher altitudes, in order for the fuel to atomize and disperse before it reaches the ground."

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Delta said the unexplained engine problem required the plane to "return quickly" to LAX airport.

"The aircraft landed safely after fuel was released, which is necessary as part of the normal procedure to achieve a safe landing weight," Delta said.

The airline said it was in contact with the airport and the fire department and expressed concern about "minor injuries" to adults and children.

The smell of aviation fuel drifted through some neighborhoods.

The Los Angeles Unified School District said teams washed playgrounds, game equipment, lunch tables and drinking fountains. said that air conditioning was left in the affected schools overnight to completely ventilate classrooms and other school buildings.

Delta reported that it sent 13 cleaning crews to assist the district in the night cleaning work.

School board vice president Jackie Goldberg was "shocked and annoyed" by the fuel tank at the Park Avenue elementary school playground in Cudahy and promised to follow the investigation closely.

"I'm sorry that our school community has gone through this scary incident today," said Goldberg.

Goelz was willing to give the pilots the benefit of the doubt, at least for now.

"Right away, I wouldn't be criticizing the team until I have more information," he said. "It wasn't an easy call."

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