Delta Air Lines Jet Dumps Fuel Over Los Angeles School District, More Than 60 People Treated For Injuries

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Over 60 individuals, at least 20 of them children had to be treated by paramedics after a Delta Air Lines jet dumped fuel over a densely populated Los Angeles School District on Tuesday afternoon.

The Delta flight just took off from Los Angeles International Airport and was turning back to LAX for an emergency landing following a technical problem and had to dump fuel to reduce weight.

Instead of dumping in less populated areas or the open ocean however, the pilots of Delta Flight 89 opened the levers above South Los Angeles, dousing people underneath them in airplane fuel including elementary school children.

The LA Times reported about the incident that saw more than 70 firefighters deployed to various sites.

An airplane returning to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday morning dropped jet fuel onto a school playground, dousing several students at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, officials said.

Delta Flight 89 — a Boeing 777 — had taken off from LAX with more than 140 passengers on board and was en route to Shanghai when it turned around and headed back to the L.A. airport.

“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX,” Delta said in a statement released Tuesday night. “The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight. Delta is in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the L.A. County Fire Department as well as community leaders, and shares concerns regarding reports of minor injuries to adults and children at schools in the area.” …

A total of 60 patients were treated, at least 20 of them children. The Los Angeles County Fire Department said more than 70 firefighters and paramedics headed to Park School Elementary, where 20 children and 11 adults were treated for minor injuries. No one was taken to the hospital. Additionally, six people at Tweedy Elementary School and six at San Gabriel Elementary in South Gate were affected, as was one adult at Graham Elementary School. L.A. City Fire treated 16 patients at Jordan High School in Long Beach and 93rd Street Elementary in Green Meadows.

LAFD spokesperson Nicholas Prange said two classes were outside Park Avenue Elementary when the liquid rained down shortly before noon. Students and staff were instructed to go indoors and remain there for the time being. …

When pilots dump fuel, they typically try to do it at above 10,000 feet and over water, but ideally it should be done at higher elevation because then the fuel turns into mist and it’s away from populated areas.

Aimer said that without knowing what Flight 89’s emergency was, the pilot may have been in the final stage of dumping fuel as the plane was heading toward LAX. He said there is also a good chance the pilot made an error.

“I don’t remember anyone dumping fuel over population,” he said. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the matter.

You can track the path of Delta 89 on Flightradar24 (access here).

Really strange flight path for a flight that has to turn back to LAX and especially one that still has to dump lots of fuel. Why would the pilots wait until a few minutes before landing to dump above one of the most populated areas of the country when they had ample opportunity to get rid of the fuel on the rather large approach circle!?

Conclusion

According to the article the aircraft is 20 years old and makes daily flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai. In recent weeks, the plane had also made trips out of L.A. to Paris and Tokyo. Not that the age of the plane matters much in this regard as long as the maintenance is good but here the malfunction caused a large scale deployment of the LAFD, creating enormous expense and injuries in the communities. Delta should be on the hook to reimburse these. Still better than crashing though.

I’m really curious what the FAA/NTSB is going to conclude about this matter and if the pilots followed correct procedures.

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