By ERWIN CHLANDA
Emirates airways is refusing to give details about its flight EK432 which dumped fuel over Central Australia on approach to Alice Springs early on Thursday evening..
The airliner had taken off from Singapore for Brisbane but was diverted because of a medical emergency.
While the airline clearly had an obligation to respond to the passenger emergency, we asked a spokeswoman whether it could have decanted fuel on the ground in Alice Springs, rather than spraying it over the landscape north-west of the town.
Aircraft can land in much less distance than they require to take off: So it could well have been possible to land the aircraft without aerial dumping, decant some fuel on the ground, and take off with a lighter aircraft.
The spokeswoman did not reply to that question, nor did she disclose how much fuel had been dumped.
The incident was disclosed by local aviation enthusiast Mitch “Chip” Childs who intercepted an air traffic control broadcast to aircraft in the area “180 miles (300 km) north-west of Alice Springs … fuel dumping in progress … from flight level 330” (33,000 feet above sea level) at about 9.30pm on Thursday local time.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority says there were “no safety issues. Fuel evaporates before the ground”.
But discussion on the Aviation Stack Exchange website suggests dumping “is never good for the environment.
“So the alleged danger from the dumping must be balanced with the imminent danger to the 200 to 400 passengers involved.”
Emirates would not disclose whether or not the landing with all the fuel still on board would have been safe on the Alice Sprigs runway – long and strong enough to accommodate giant Galaxy US military aircraft serving Pine Gap.
The web discussion participant says: “Dumping fuel sounds dangerous but it is not. It is not going to explode.
“Jet-A can be compared to kerosene and I don’t have that statistic so let’s compare it to Diesel Fuel which is not dissimilar to Jet-A.
“Jet-A also evaporates into the air, so little if any hits the ground.
“The biggest danger I see is to the atmosphere.”
PHOTO by Mitch “Chip” Childs of the Emirates 777-300 on the ground in Alice Springs.