Thursday, July 18, 2013

Virgin plane had just 535kg of fuel when it made emergency landing at Mildura Airport

The full extent of the low-fuel emergency involving a Virgin Australia passenger plane at Mildura Airport has been revealed in a report which shows the aircraft had just 535kg of fuel when it landed.

The report also shows that the unforecast fog at Mildura was so thick that the first officer had to look out the side-window of the cockpit because visibility at the front of the plane was "virtually non-existent.''

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday released its preliminary report into the incident on June 18 which saw a Virgin flight with 91 people on board, and a Qantas flight with 152 people, divert to Mildura after being unable to land at Adelaide because of heavy fog.

The Herald Sun has previously revealed that the Virgin plane was forced to land because it did not have enough fuel to divert, and that it had less than 800kg of fuel on board.

The ATSB's report revealed that by the time the plane landed safely - after an emergency landing which saw the passengers put into the brace positions - it had only 535kg of fuel in its tanks.

When it had departed Brisbane for Adelaide earlier that morning, it had planned to land at Adelaide with 2500kg of fuel, which equated to planned fuel reserves and an additional 30 minutes of fuel.

The Qantas plane, which left from Sydney, had planned to land with 2800kg of fuel, which was planned fuel reserves and an additional 45 minutes.

The report also confirms that information from the automated weather service at Mildura was not available.

The Virgin Australia crew had not been advised of fog problems at Mildura when they diverted from Adelaide.

"As they descended through about 10,000 feet in visual conditions it became obvious to the crew (of the Virgin flight) that they weather conditions were not as reported and there appeared to be fog at Mildura and low cloud in the area,'' the report states.

The report also shows that the Qantas crew had indicated to the Virgin crew that "fuel was an issue'' for them as they approached Mildura. The Virgin crew "assessing the intent of the radio transmission from the crew of (the Qantas flight) as meaning they had less fuel (than the Virgin flight), allowed the Qantas flight to land first.

However, it was later determined that the Qantas flight had 2100kg of fuel remaining when it pulled off the runway.

The report shows the Virgin flight was so low on fuel it had no option but to land.

"Due to their fuel state, they were required to land from the next approach regardless of conditions,'' it stated.

It also said that the "crew could not determine where they were in relation to the length of the runway and flew the aircraft onto the ground.''

Despite a "firm'' landing, the plane arrived safely and there were no injuries.

A final report is due by June.

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