Cityjet RJ85 at Dublin and Belfast on Nov 12th 2015, landed below required final fuel reserve
Last Update: April 14, 2016 / 17:19:34 GMT/Zulu time
The AAIB reported the aircraft landed with 650kg of fuel remaining, required minimum fuel reserve, equivalent to 30 minutes of flying time, had been 849kg.
The weather forecast had indicated strong southwesterly at 45 knots suggesting crosswind limits could be exceeded for both runway 16/34 and 10/28 in Dublin. Similiar wind conditions were forecast for Shannon (Ireland) and Belfast International,NI (UK), Belfast however remained available as an alternate airport. Manchester was showing acceptable conditions at the time of arrival with winds gusting at 25 knots, the weather front was forecast to pass over the aerodrome only later during the day. The captain therefore ordered to load fuel needed for the trip, 25 minutes holding time plus diversion to Manchester in addition to the required final fuel reserve.
Weather information collected enroute reported Dublin winds from 230 degrees at 23 knots gusting 35 knots, runway 16 was in use. Both Belfast and Manchester were suitable for diversion.
As the aircraft was descending towards Dublin the aircraft was sent into a hold as the surface winds had increased gusting up to 47 knots. While in the hold the crew checked the weather conditions of their alternates again, Belfast was reported with winds from 190 degrees at 22 knots and good visibility, suitable for landing.
The winds at Dublin eased and the crew decided to commence one approach, but needed to discontinue the approach when the winds strengthened again. The crew initiated the diversion to Belfast after checking they had sufficient fuel and the aerodrome was suitable for landing according to weather reports.
The aircraft joined an ILS approach for Belfast's runway 25 when the crew was informed of an area of poor weather affecting the aerodrome with low visibility and winds gusting up to 40 knots. The weather was moving rapidly however disabled the aircraft to continue the approach until the weather had passed over the aerodrome, the crew was observing the weather on their on-board weather radar. The crew declared PAN to alert ATC to their state of low fuel. Anticipating a low fuel alert activating shortly the crew also worked the related checklists in anticipation.
With the assistance by ATC the aircraft positioned to the south west of the aerodrome to commence another approach from there. As the winds were abating and the weather was clearing the airport ATC offered runway 17, the crew accepted the runway having checked earlier the runway was suitable for landing. The crew detected that they would land below requried final fuel reserve, declared Mayday and subsequently completed a safe landing on runway 17.
The AAIB summarized the captain's considerations:
The aircraft commander reported that several factors influenced the sequence of events. While more fuel could have been loaded in Paris, he gave consideration to the aircraft’s weight for landing, particularly as windshear conditions were possible. The commander initiated the diversion with fuel for an extra 10 minutes flying time above the minimum required. Although an earlier decision to divert would have meant more fuel available in case of further delays, this had to be weighed against the likelihood of a safe landing at Dublin, which appeared possible for a time when the wind eased.
Manchester was available as a diversion, had better weather conditions and had been allowed for in the fuel uplift. However, Belfast appeared to offer a better alternative at the time, required less fuel, and had two runways available in case of significant wind shifts.
The AAIB released following comment:
This incident is an example of the decisions flight crews may have to face in rapidly changing weather conditions. If conditions for landing are well below the requirements, the decision about whether and when to divert is straightforward. However, when conditions appear marginal for landing, the commander will naturally have to weigh the likelihood of making a safe approach and landing at the original destination (which will consume fuel that would otherwise be available for diversion, whether the aircraft is able to land or not) with the many variables involved in diverting at short notice to another airport that may be some distance away.
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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