Cityjet RJ85 at Basel/Mulhouse on Jun 17th 2010, fuel emergency

Last Update: October 25, 2012 / 15:18:07 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jun 17, 2010

Classification
Report

Airline
Cityjet

Flight number
WX-5106

Aircraft Registration
EI-RJW

ICAO Type Designator
RJ85

A Cityjet Avro RJ-85 on behalf of Air France, registration EI-RJW performing flight WX-5106/AF-5106 from Paris Charles de Gaulle (France) to Zurich (Switzerland) with 40 passengers and 4 crew, was on approach to Zurich when the aircraft went around due to weather conditions. The crew, communicating in English, subsequently decided to not enter a holding but divert to Basel/Mulhouse (Switzerland/France) indicating they had 2170kg/4780lbs of fuel (about 75 minutes at cruise level) remaining. About 20 minutes later the aircraft reported on approach to Basel and was assigned runway 33. Another 8 minutes later the crew requested to short cut the trajectory without specifying a reason. The aircraft established on the ILS to runway 33 and was handed off to tower. Tower in the meantime queried the crew of a departing A319 in French, whether they were ready to depart within a minute, after getting a ready within 30 seconds tower cleared the A319 to line up on and take off from runway 33. Shortly after, the RJ85 was about 4.7nm from touch down, the crew noticed the A319 on the runway and queried tower whether they were cleared to land, the tower replying negative, continue approach, the A319 is departing. When the RJ-85 was about 1.8nm from touchdown, the A319 had still not started rolling, tower cancelled the takeoff clearance and instructed the crew of the A319 to hold position and instructed the RJ-85 to go around. The crew of the RJ-85 refused that instruction stating they had not enough fuel and demanded the A319 to leave the runway. The controller repeated the instruction to go around, the crew declared emergency and initiated the go-around. Tower instructed the aircraft to climb to 6000 feet and contact approach, approach then provided shortest vectors to a visual approach runway 33, where the aircraft landed safely 8 minutes after the go-around. Remaining fuel was 1220kg/2687lbs with a required minimum fuel reserve of 850kg/1872lbs.

The French BEA released their final report in French (English version released on Oct 25th 2012) concluding the probable cause of the incident was:

The crew released information about their low fuel situation and emergency very late causing a lack of awareness with air traffic control.

Contributing factors were:
- the absence of a defined procedure "minimum fuel"
- The communication in French with the A319 did not permit the RJ85 crew, communicating in English, to understand the other aircraft would takeoff prior to their landing

The BEA annotated that other than with ICAO, where the declaration of "Minimum Fuel" permits a crew to describe their situation, that might become critical, without the necessity to declare an emergency, European legislation does not provide for a procedure to declare "minimum fuel". The BEA complained that following an incident in 1999, that too had occurred due to the lack of possibility to declare minimum fuel, a safety recommendation released by the BEA had been shot down arguing the declaration would be confusing and would not require any action. The BEA re-iterated and re-released their safety recommendation to introduce a formal procedure to declare minimum fuel in accordance with ICAO regulations.

Air Traffic Control procedures however do know the term "minimum fuel" as term to "indicate that the amount of fuel on board is such that the aircraft can not accept delays even if for a short time. Note: the term does not indicate an emergency, but an emergency situation can arise if there is an unexpected delay."

The BEA reported, that when the crew declared emergency they had 1440kg/3172lbs of fuel remaining.

The aircraft had departed Paris with 4263kg/9390lbs of fuel, which included 417kg/918lbs of additional diversion fuel due to the weather situation in Zurich. When the crew initiated the diversion they had 2170kg/4780lbs of fuel on board. During the go-around in Basel/Mulhouse the aircraft had 1440kg/3171lbs of fuel on board, the captain was unsure how many aircraft would land ahead of them and stated that if there was a number of aircraft landing ahead of them they would need to cut into their final fuel reserve, which according to procedures required him to declare emergency. Company procedures also required the crew to declare PAN if landing would occur below 1200kg/2643lbs of fuel remaining. He did not declare PAN or Mayday earlier because until the instruction to go-around in Basel landing above 1200kg of fuel remaining was ensured.

The BEA analysed that the use of English for all communication would have permitted the Cityjet crew to become aware of the imminent departure earlier and thus either abort their approach earlier (with less distance and time needed to position for another approach) or communicate the resulting emergency situation from a possible delay due to runway occupation.

The BEA complained they had released another safety recommendation in 2000 to evaluate the use of a single language (English) in air traffic control, however, the recommendation did not result in introduction of a single language requirement at least for international airports due to the evaluation pointing out negative effects like political and diplomatic pressures, lack of sufficient training of users of frequency other than controllers and pilots, greater ease of communication in French for French pilots and the difficulty to find a competent body with necessary objectivity to conduct this type of study.

Metar LSZH:
LSZH171650Z 08007 TSRA 8000 3500N FEW024CB SCT032 BKN037 17/14 Q1012 SHRA TEMPO 4000 +
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jun 17, 2010

Classification
Report

Airline
Cityjet

Flight number
WX-5106

Aircraft Registration
EI-RJW

ICAO Type Designator
RJ85

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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