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Allegiant Air flight runs low on fuel over closed airport, makes emergency landing

An Allegiant Air flight ran dangerously low on fuel last week as it circled an airport in North Dakota that was actually closed so the Navy's Blue Angels could practice for an upcoming air show. ( More...

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Why does a commercial pilot leave his origination point without knowing all NOTAM's that effect his scheduled route? Specifically, his destination airport.

Why does an airline dispatch an aircraft without the required fuel reserves?

It appears to me someone needs to shake the tree at Allegiant and see what falls out of it.
James Derry 6
Because dispatch hands you a flight package, or you bring it up yourself at the ops office before departure. With the weather and the operational flight plan, there are maybe 58 pages (looking at my last package) Buried on page 36, there is a notam about the airport being closed during the following period "blah blah blah" When (if) you notice this, you check the arrival time and say "We get there beforehand…."

Then 6 things happen (which led to the hour delay, and the NOTAM has slipped your mind. When you level off in cruise, you check the arrival time and a bell goes off…….. you recheck the notam and call dispatch, let them know about the situation, and they PROMISE to arrange things for your arrival. So maybe you decide to cruise faster than usual to make up some of the time, and the winds are 15 knots off velocity and 35 degrees off direction, giving you a greater than expected headwind or less than expected tailwind. ….and of course you used fuel if the delay was partially after engine start in the line up for departure…..

Pucker factor is increasing, but you call dispatch a couple times and they "are working on it….."

So Kenneth, it is usually not one thing, accidents happen when the factors build up and any one thing would not have caused an accident, but together these little facts conspire against you.

Now, I am not an airline pilot, I am a VIP corporate sled pilot. I am not beholden to dispatch or operations and I can take the fuel I want. But I still get this tome of paper handed to me. Arrival at the airport 2 hours before departure sounds like enough, does´t it?

But the flight attendant calls, stuck in traffic or broken down, the fuel truck has you next on the list……but doesn´t have enough remaining and so has to go to the fuel farm and reload, the passenger´s driver calls and says they are 30 minutes early and he expects to be at the gate in 15 minutes. The catering just arrived, but remember the FA is missing…..

It can happen to the best of us, airline or executive charter, corporate, private. Try telling the boss that he cannot land due to storms in the area and he will accept that safety comes first. Try telling him you will be delayed 30 minutes in order to finish reading the notams and you might be looking for another job quick-like.

I am not trying to make an excuse for the pilot, he can explain it himself and undoubted will get the chance. But read Fate is the Hunter and report back.
joel wiley 2
Sounds like the Second Officer's last name is Murphy.
According to Richard N. Velotta reporting for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the airline says the flight landed with 42 minutes of fuel, 3 into the reserve required by FAR. 45-30 minutes is considered "minimum fuel", less than 30 is "emergency". Missing the NOTAM by both the dispatcher and both pilots is something for the FAA to inquire about, particularly since one was the director of safety and the other vp of flight operations.
As far as the alternate issue is concerned, I'm sure the FAA is going to be very interested in the thought process that precluded going to an open airport 70 miles away or as one writer here noted approx equidistant. I didn't look at the track but have to question the judgement of making a bad situation worse by not going to an alternate that if reports are true was clearly within the range of the aircraft.
Lastly is the use of non standard verbiage in a critical situation as has also been noted earlier, "bingo fuel", (which also sounded so dire when the tapes were broadcast and commented on by reporters who have little idea what's going on). I don't know what that means exactly as a civilian pilot for 47 years, yes I've heard it bantied about when discussing amongst ourselves our options to go to an alternate or not and when; but as standard phraseology, particularly with high level management pilots in command, once again, no, shouldn't have happened. I'm sure the FAA is going to be very interested to hear their explanations, quite frankly, so am I.
I don't disagree about the work load factor, but your destination airport being closed due to TFR is probably one NOTAM that shouldn't "slip" either the dispatcher's or pilot's mind.

As for the fuel, there seems to be no indication he didn't have a legal load. The pilot was very much in the right for insisting he needed to land prior to burning into his 45 minute reserve. One thing to note is that according to the Flight Aware track, he was roughly an equal distance from Fargo to Grand Forks at the time he started his inbound turn to final, so a diversion to Grand Forks would not have factored too greatly into the final fuel burn number.

I think it's kind of too bad that ATC couldn't work with the Blue Angels so far as letting a scheduled passenger airliner land at it's routine destination, but passenger jets are not on the list of exceptions allowed in 91.145(g).
preacher1 2
Well, it was in the NOTAM
Actually, the FAA has a NOTAM Improvement Panel in place at the moment to address issues like this. The current July 2015 ASRS Callback focuses on a few cases where controllers and pilots have missed NOTAMS, and what needs to be done to reduce these occurances.
preacher1 0
To answer your questions Ken:
1. They shouldn't.
2. They shouldn't.
3.They could have had min. fuel on board and been hit with a gate return for whatever reason and Captain knowing what all he was up against and frustrated at the delay anyway, could have just simply forgot to take additional or though he could do it OK. He may have forgot about the closing. The only thing certain about this whole deal that has been made public is that he was basically out of gas.
drdek 6
For what it is worth, I think Allegiant was simply being cheap. Carrying a reduced fuel load saves a few pennies. In addition, canceling the flight or arriving at an alternate airport would cost them too much. They probably figured the tower would not turn them away if they declared an emergency with a load of passengers. Sometimes it easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
joe sharkey 11
Here's what you do when a pilot says he has an emergency and needs to land. You clear the f------ decks and let him land and sort it out later. You don't suggest his company make a phone call. Too bad if that inconveniences the Blue Angeles and their show.
matt jensen 1
Apparently, your USN flight team has priority but not for emergency landings. It's laughable if it wasn't so serious. Tower has a responsibility to land ER's now, not send them 70nm to Grand Forks.
preacher1 5
Strange as it was that ATC just did not go ahead and do it, at the time of the Grand Forks offer, he had not declared an Emergency. The bigger question to me though, is that if the original destination was Fargo anyway, how come he was Bingo on fuel when he got there. No excessive holding noted anywhere and even though he was an hour delayed, that was on the ground as far as we know, not under power. Last time I checked there was a 45 minute reserve requirement.
scott8733 1
Spot on, preach.
Loral Thomas 8
They closed an airport that has several commercial airliners landing every day so the Blue Angels could practice! Are you kidding me? Granted, Allegiant's dispatch should have been aware of this but really, who would have thunk it. Somebody's not telling the whole story.
linbb 1
They usually do not disrupt normal scheduled airline flights in and out only civilian AC. This is even during an airshow they shut it down long enough to accommodate scheduled airline traffic at all airshows I have been at. Also if they were doing practice usually its off airport and the airliner would not be circling close in during it if it was at the airport. Something screwed up bad as they should not have been that low on fuel due to the requirements if an alternate airport is needed.
Jeff Lawson 4
The NOTAM actually allowed scheduled air carriers to continue to operate, so they really shouldn't have been turned away to begin with:

!FAR 07/020 FAR AD AIRPORT CLSD EXC SCHEDULED AIR CARRIERS DLY 1700-2200 1507231700-1507242200
!FAR 07/043 FAR AD AIRPORT CLSD EXC SKED AIR CARRIERS 1 HR PPR 701-235-8894 DLY 1700-2200 1507231700-1507242200
mike SUT 3
The thing I don't understand about this is that the flight is supposed to be dispatched with enough fuel to fly from departure airport to destination and then for another 45 minutes. I looked back at Fargo weather and it didn't require reserve fuel so essentially if his burn went as "planned" he should have had the 45 minutes which no one wants to go into but is there for extenuating circumstances. I'm sure he burned into this and was a few minutes from calling "Minimum fuel" (30 minutes left) and that might have been what he was referring to as his "bingo" fuel. If he got to 20 minutes left..he HAS to declare an emergency and then all sorts of red flags are in the air. Big question is...were the airport closure plans in the NOTAMS and...if so, why didn't he see them and figure out he was going to arrive after the closure. At least he could have then asked for an alternate and got Alternate fuel on board prior to departure.
mike SUT 2
Sorry, I meant...didn't require Alternate always have to have Reserve fuel
matt jensen 2
Oy - he burned his reserve sitting on the ground for an hour! Prolly waiting on the VIP's to arrive.
mike SUT 1
If that was the case, then his head definitely wasn't "in the game". If you are sitting there burning your reserve gas while on the ground, you should be thinking that it's time to get back to the gate for more gas. However, my guess is that he wasn't burning it up at the departure point, might have had a mechanical at the gate, but more than likely was burning it up motoring around Fargo trying to "negotiate" landing clearances. Purely conjecture on my part but with 31 years of airline experience behind me, think it's quite plausible.
ken young 2
Tower: "You can't land here. The Blue Angels are practicing"....
Capt: Ok. And my alternative is?"
Randy Michel 1
Wasn't the VP of Flight Ops and the Safety director flying this flight? I read on an thread about those two flying on a flight to ND and they didn't check the notams that the airport was closed.
Chris B 1
There is seriously something wrong with this story. I suspect its the Journalists looking for a payday with sensationalism.
matt jensen 2
It's the DM - don't believe everything you read from them. After all they hired Piers Morgan as one of their online editors.
DAL498 1
I heard the recording and he actually did say "3 minutes of fuel left"
GolfrGuy7 1
He said he had 3 minutes of fuel left until bingo fuel. While "bingo" should not be used in the civilian sector of aviation, what he means is that in 3 minutes he will begin burning into the reserve fuel.
preacher1 2
You are exactly right and was just a cutoff term, go/no go, in the military and mostly USAF at that. I never heard it used in the civilian world but in the way he used it, he had everybody thinking he was on 0 fuel. Whether he was or just looking for a way down will be found out later. I do notice the stopped on the runway and it looked like slides popped. As someone said on here, "sometimes its easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission".
blueashflyer 1
from the article:
"The airline could not immediately say how many passengers were on the flight."

It's bad enough if they can't estimate how much fuel to put on board, or predict when they are going to land, but if they don't know the number of pax they have on board - that's really troubling.
DAL498 1
A lot of people should be in big trouble for this. The dispatcher for not realizing the airport would be closed and blatantly not meeting FARs for minimum fuel. The flight ops people for not catching this. And the pilots for not reading the notams.
Bryan McKee 1
It's my opinion that the fuel emergency came about due to a 17min hold down at 14,000ft. I also think the plane was dispatched at min fuel leaving Vegas to begin with. Combine that with a return to gate due to a medical and a 17min hold down I'm sure they were hard pressed for time to come up with a solid solution. And don't mistake this as finding an "excuse" because there really isn't one I'm just adding a few facts to the story.
preacher1 1
Well, we'll probably never know. I guess it could be fabricated up on the gate return but the fact remains that at takeoff there is the requirement for 45 minutes reserve fuel.
Bryan McKee 1
I fully agree but I am pretty certain they left below what the release called for
preacher1 1
For whatever reason.
joel wiley 1
How often does that occur when it doesn't come back and bite them?
drdek 1
Maybe the NTSB should have a look at the fuel log?
preacher1 1
Them or the FAA one will be looking at it.
Joe Darmogray 1
The fact is that there were 144 souls on that plane. If they would have been informed (don't know if they were), you KNOW that they would have cleared out.
btweston 1
Ok, there was a screwup on Allegiant's end. But can't the Blue Angels get out of the way for a few minutes? I hear they're very fast.

The controller seemed to be more interested in allowing very maneuverable planes to do loop-de-loops when one would think that the priority would be getting an airliner in distress on the ground. Something is amiss.
preacher1 2
Well, during all that time of talking to the tower, listen to the tapes on the story and while it may be splitting hairs, he never declared an Emergency. As noted below, BINGO fuel probably didn't mean anything to ATC unless there was an ex military controller in there and tower told the pilot that they had an opening in about 20 mins. It is at that point that Emergency was declared and he landed.
Ralph Wigzell 1
Under what FAR Part was this operation conducted?
Jeff Lawson 1
Flight track for AAY426 --
This track doesn't show anything I would call "circling the airport." Sure, there's what appears to be a longer than normal downwind leg, but to be running that low on fuel at that point shows a lack of planning somewhere.
John Silva 1
I've got news folks. Something similar happened to me at Brown Field San Diego. I checked all Notams and pertinent flight info. It was about 10 PM at night when I arrived from Mexico to find all the runway lights were inoperative. The Notam must have originated while I was in flight. Customs was not happy but I can't help that. I was on an IFR flight plan. I put this under the category that ---- happens.
ken young 1
Why short on fuel? Money. All airlines do this. They load the tanks with the minimum fuel requirement to save money.
chudddds 1
Must have been glider pilot
Ralph Wigzell 1
Ok it's 121 domestic. Just wondering why they had no fuel for an alternate.
Loral Thomas 1
We can shoulda woulda this all we want but one simple fact remains. If the airport hadn't been CLOSED for Blue Angels PRACTICE this never would have been an issue. Period. And, no, I'm not excusing Allegiant's goof-up in all of this.
preacher1 1
An it may have been a factor with the Captain. He may have had a gate return for mx or whatever and went on, forgetting the NOTAM, and figuring a light traffic airport, no problem. As you say, we can speculate on this thing until hell freezes over and very doubtful we'll ever know why. Although, this thing has made all the National News broadcasts so we may hear more about it. We'll see.
linbb 0
Close an airport for five hours how many times were they going to refuel the jets so they could fly that long??? The story is bad from the start, there is no indication of how long they held for clearance but the airport was closed at one PM, they landed 12 miniuts after one so sounds like they didn't have enough fuel to start with and they were delayed for an hour taking off which would have put them there just before one pm. Some how some where the story is off bad.
preacher1 1
Well, boiling everything down, how come with a one hour delay on departure, were they cleared in the 1st place. Somebody besides Allegiant had to know about that closing.
preacher1 1
To boot on that, the one hour delay was not holding or anything in the air that we can tell, so why were we short on fuel to commence with?
Loral Thomas 0
Yep. That's what I said. Its not like Fargo was an alternate -- it was their destination. And they certainly wouldn't have to close an airport for refueling. We may never hear "the real story" and Allegiant doesn't need any more media attention.
matt jensen 1
Allegiant will be the next carrier to fold it's tent.
Margeaux K -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Plane Almost Runs Out of Gas After Airport Closure

Federal officials are investigating why an Allegiant Air passenger jet nearly ran out of fuel before landing at an airport that was temporarily closed to most traffic.
James Duggan 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Allegiant Flight Lands At Closed Airport

answers from Allegiant Air about why one of its planes, carrying 144 passengers, nearly ran out of fuel before making an emergency landing in Fargo, North Dakota.


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