Transavia B737 at Barcelona on Apr 17th 2016, fuel emergency

Last Update: July 12, 2018 / 16:09:23 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 17, 2016


Flight number

Barcelona, Spain

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-700

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

A Transavia Boeing 737-700, registration PH-XRZ performing flight HV-5133 from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Barcelona,SP (Spain) with 132 passengers and 5 crew, was on final approach to Barcelona's runway 25R, about 10 minutes prior to scheduled landing, when a sudden change of winds prompted the crew to go around from about 500 feet AGL and immediately declare emergency due to being low of fuel. The aircraft was cleared for an approach to runway 07L and landed safely 12 minutes after going around.

On Apr 27th 2016 Spain's CIAIAC reported that as result of the sudden wind change a number of aircraft needed to go around and were subsequently vectored to one of the runways 07, however, flight HV-5133 declared emergency due to low fuel and received priority for a landing without further incident. An investigation into the occurrence has been opened.

The Aviation Herald received information about the occurrence on Apr 18th 2016 stating, that the aircraft landed with just 470kg/1035lbs of fuel remaining. The Aviation Herald remained extremely sceptical being unable to verify the information until Apr 27th. The information stated, that the flight crew became aware of their extremely low fuel while descending towards Barcelona. While on final approach a sudden change of winds occurred resulting in more than 30 knots of tail wind component forcing the crew to go around and immediately declare emergency as landing with final fuel reserve intact was no longer possible further advising, they needed to land instantly on one of the runways 07. The aircraft was vectored for an immediate approach in opposite direction to one of the runways 07 and landed with just 470kg of fuel remaining. Gossip running within the company (and spreading outside the company) states that there had been a fuel computation error by dispatch, that was not picked up by the flight crew resulting in the fuel emergency. The flight crew had experienced two passenger medical emergencies on their prior two sectors flown that day.

Following the release of this coverage The Aviation Herald received conflicting information stating that the fuel on board remaining after landing had been 1080kg/2379lbs with a final fuel reserve of 1001kg/2205lbs. We are currently working to cross check that information.

On May 11th 2016 Spain's CIAIAC told The Aviation Herald that the occurrence was rated a serious incident. The CIAIAC again declined to comment on what amount of fuel remained on board after landing.

On Jul 12th 2018 the CIAIAC released their final report stating the aircraft had 1080kg of fuel on board remaining after reaching the parking stand with a minimum reserve required of 1001kg. The reported concluded the probable cause of the incident (editorial note: no longer rated a serious incident) was:

The incident was caused by the Transavia crew’s improper planning of the fuel consumption for the flight.

The following factors contributed to the incident:

- The change in the preferred runway configuration at the Barcelona Airport as the result of an unpredicted sudden shift in wind direction.

- Improper coordination by the different ATS stations, which resulted in a head-on approach between two aircraft under their control.

The CIAIAC analysed that on the previous sector to Amsterdam the crew had to deal with a medical emergency of a passenger and were busy with assisting medical staff with deplaning the ill passenger. The refueling of the aircraft thus was done without supervision by the flight crew, only the flight operations office handled the refueling. The crew later stated that without the medical emergency they would have taken some more fuel on board as they thought the fuel amount on the automated flight plan was a "little tight".

The flight plan had anticipated a departure from runway 24, however, the aircraft departed from runway 36 (editorial note: not stated which of the 36 runways) involving longer taxi distance and more fuel consumption.

The CIAIAC then wrote:

The conversations recorded on the CVR reveal that the crew were more concerned about arriving at their destination at the scheduled time than about economizing fuel, even though they had departed only six minutes behind schedule. They calculated that they would make up the time by increasing their speed to 0.79M, which would allow them to reach LEBL with 1.7 tons of fuel remaining. This was the minimum required to proceed to the planned alternate (Reus).


Once they were descending, during the approach maneuver, the crew realized that the amount of fuel on landing would be 1.6 tons. This difference of 100 kg detected could also be explained by a slight variation in the cockpit reading for the fuel remaining caused by an acceleration and/or by a change in the pitch angle.

From then on, the crew stated that their only option was to land in Barcelona, since the estimated fuel remaining on arrival was less than that required to proceed to the alternate.

The captain exercised his discretion by assessing the weather information and traffic situation at Barcelona to continue the approach to Barcelona. The crew did however not discuss the option of declaring MINIMUM FUEL.

The CIAIAC therefore wrote:

This information is based on the recommendations of ICAO Annex 6, contained in EASA SIB 2013-12, which states: “The declaration of MINIMUM FUEL informs ATC that all planned aerodrome options have been reduced to a specific aerodrome of intended landing and any change to the existing clearance may result in landing with less than planned final reserve fuel. This is not an emergency situation but an indication that an emergency situation is possible should any additional delay occur.”

According to this definition, the “MINIMUM FUEL” declaration was applicable starting at 18:56:36, when the final controller for runway 25R informed the Transavia crew that the preceding crew had reported a 20 knot tailwind, which exceeded their landing limits. This report served to inform the crew of the possibility that if they had to execute a go-around, the conditions existed that a “change to the existing clearance may result in landing with less than planned final reserve fuel”.

This report would have allowed ATC to learn, four minutes before the aircraft executed a go-around, of the marginal fuel situation affecting the Transavia aircraft.

Based on this report, which by definition does not imply priority, the controller would have been alerted to the fact that from the very start of the go-around maneuver, he could have expected the imminent declaration of a fuel emergency.

ATC would thus have had about four additional minutes to deal with the traffic separation, which is how long it took the crew to declare MAYDAY FUEL following the start of their go-around maneuver, and which diverted them from the “existing clearance”. In addition, since the previous aircraft had been forced to go around due to the windshear reported on final, knowing the low fuel status of the aircraft would have allowed ATC to anticipate this contingency without being caught off guard.

The CIAIAC analysed the go around:

The FDR clearly indicates the increase recorded in wind speed and the change in direction starting at an altitude of 1567 ft, with its maximum value being at 18:58:41, when it reached 22 knots from a direction of 053º. This value exceeds the 15-knot value that the B737 aircraft has as an operational limit; thus, the crew executed a go around and the standard missed approach procedure as instructed.

In their first communication with approach sector T4, the crew reported they were “low on fuel”, information they later provided a second time. At 19:04:52, when the FMC indicated that the fuel remaining on landing would be 1.1 tons, close to the reserve fuel, they decided to declare MAYDAY FUEL at 19:04:52, at the controller’s request, after declaring low fuel for the third time.

They immediately received vectors to return to runway 07L at the airport. They started their descent upon intercepting the localizer in order to make a stabilized approach. This descent was interrupted at 3000 ft when ATC informed them there was an aircraft going around in the opposite direction.

The CVR indicates the copilot’s concern over maneuvering to proceed in the direction opposite that being used by aircraft that were departing and going around. The crew also exhibited apprehension on seeing the lights of the aircraft heading toward them, believing that it took ATC a long time to give them separation instructions.

The aircraft landed without further incident with 1170 kg of fuel onboard over the required reserve fuel of 1001 kg.

While analyzing ATC actions and the Mayday declaration the CIAIAC analysed: "The Transavia crew did not make its report as per these requirements. However, they landed at Barcelona with 176 kg of fuel over their final reserve, which would have allowed for a further five minutes of flight time. This would have allowed the controller to delay the approach and avoid the traffic conflict."

LEBL 172030Z 06012KT 9999 FEW020 16/11 Q1016 NOSIG
LEBL 172000Z 06013KT 9999 FEW020 16/11 Q1015 NOSIG
LEBL 171930Z 05013KT 9999 FEW020 17/11 Q1015 NOSIG
LEBL 171900Z 05011KT 9999 FEW020 18/10 Q1014 NOSIG
LEBL 171830Z 24011KT CAVOK 19/10 Q1013 NOSIG
LEBL 171800Z 23015KT 9999 FEW010 20/09 Q1013 NOSIG
LEBL 171730Z 23016KT 9999 FEW015 20/11 Q1013 NOSIG
LEBL 171700Z 22014KT 9999 FEW010 20/11 Q1012 NOSIG
LEBL 171630Z 22013KT 9999 FEW055 20/12 Q1012 NOSIG
LEBL 171600Z 23016KT 9999 FEW010 20/11 Q1012 NOSIG
LEBL 171530Z 22017KT 9999 FEW055 21/10 Q1012 NOSIG
LEBL 171500Z 22017KT 9999 FEW055 21/11 Q1012 NOSIG
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 17, 2016


Flight number

Barcelona, Spain

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-700

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

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