Has a Pilot Ever Declared an Emergency Simply to Land Sooner?

Apr 29, 2017

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Quora.com is a question-and-answer site where content is written and edited by its community of users. Occasionally we syndicate content from the site if we think it will interest TPG readers. This article originally appeared on Quora.com in response to the question, Has a Pilot Ever Declared an Emergency Simply to Land Sooner? and was written by Bruno Gilissen, an A330/A350 pilot.


This may not 100% conform to the question but comes down to the same thing.

In 2011, a Qatar Airways flight declared a fuel emergency over Shanghai and asked for an immediate landing. That’s what a commercial flight should do when it estimates that it will be landing with the equivalent of fewer than 30 minutes of fuel left in its tanks. There were long delays because of the weather in Shanghai and the aircraft quickly burnt through its fat, requesting a diversion to the alternate (Hongqiao, another airport in Shanghai, while Pudong is the main gateway).

A South Korean captain flying for Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines would have none of that. He decided to refuse Air Traffic Control’s instructions to give way six times in a time frame of seven minutes. His excuse was that he was also low on fuel.

That comes down to prioritizing himself into a more pressing emergency in my book. Doing that is only ever acceptable if that’s indeed so, like if you’re on fire, for example.

A quick check of the fuel gauges post-fact showed that the Juneyao’s A320 had 2.9 tons of fuel left, an equivalent of more than 40 minutes on that type. The Qatar Boeing 777 had 5.2 tons left, which meant less than 20 minutes for the bigger type.

Needless to say, after the tea and biscuits, that captain got fired and banned from flying in China for life.

Featured image courtesy of Sebastianlory via Getty Images.

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