26 Injured After Delta 777 Dumps Fuel On Elementary School

Filed Under: Delta

Delta Air Lines flight 89 bound from Los Angeles to Shanghai today experienced engine issues after takeoff. The Boeing 777-200 had to return to LAX. However, the plane was too heavy to land, so it had to dump fuel before it could do so.

Dumping fuel is totally routine when a wide body has an emergency landing, since a 777’s maximum takeoff weight is significantly higher than its maximum landing weight. Typically when airplanes dump fuel they do so over an area that’s either not populated, or over the water.

However, for whatever reason this Delta plane dumped fuel over a populated area, and in this case it even dumped fuel over a school, causing minor injuries to 27 people.

Specifically, 17 children and nine adults have been treated at an elementary school in southeast Los Angeles after a plane dumped fuel on the school’s playground. More than 70 firefighters and paramedics responded to the school.

The plane also dumped fuel in other areas, though it’s not yet known whether anyone else was injured.

So, what would cause a 777 to dump fuel at a low altitude over a populated area? Looking at flight tracking, it seems that the plane was only in the air for a total of 25 minutes, and it reached a highest altitude of 8,000 feet. The plane returned to the airport pretty immediately, as you can see based on the below map from Flightradar24.

While details are still emerging, on the surface this would suggest to me that it was a fairly serious emergency that required returning to the airport ASAP. Usually if a heavy plane dumps fuel the flight will take a lot more than 25 minutes — the plane will fly out over the water and enter a holding pattern while it dumps fuel, before returning to the airport.

In this case they clearly decided that for whatever reason there was no time for that, and they needed to dump fuel ASAP regardless of where they were flying.

Thank goodness that there were no major injuries, and that the plane landed safely. Like I said, an emergency landing as such is pretty routine and doesn’t mean the plane is in danger, though the fact that the plane was only in the air for 25 minutes and dumped fuel during this time, suggests that this was most likely a serious situation.

Comments
  1. 26 injured when dumped fuel lands on school

    I hear you, NSS. This is a problem everywhere on the internet

  2. Exactly what Billy Bob says. They didn’t set out to dump fuel on a school. It was an unwanted result during an emergency.

  3. If English is your second language perhaps you will fail to notice that the headline does not convey intent…
    Subject: Delta
    Predicate: dumps fuel on school
    Whether it was inadvertent or not is not part of the headline.
    Too bad you had to waste 30 precious seconds to actually read the article, though I do question the comprehension skills of some.

  4. This is interesting, does an “emergency” give a plane the right to dump fuel wherever it pleases, consequences be damned?

  5. Headline feels like click bait. The plane was going through an emergency and had to dump fuel. The injuries were all minor. Nobody was hospitalized. The headline makes it sound like people were seriously hurt and there is no mention that this was part of an emergency. Local officials on the ground indicated that the fuel had dissipated before it reached the ground. They actually started dumping fuel while they were over the water but they had to dump a lot since it was a long haul flight and they just took off. Whether or not they could have safely circled some more over the water is something the FAA can determine, but the headline is more akin to something you would see in a tabloid.

  6. According to CNN, “some people who were hit by the jet fuel were decontaminated with soap and water, but no one at any site needed to be taken to the hospital, Sgt. Rudy Perez with the Los Angeles School Police Department said.”

    If it can be treated by soap and water, I’m not sure I’d call it an injury.

  7. A similar incident happened a number of years ago to a fully loaded Northwest 747-400 on a MSP-NRT flight. Immediately after takeoff an engine caught fire and they needed to return to MSP as quickly as possible. They dumped a lot of fuel over a populated area. But in the end the plane landed safely and no one on the plane or on the ground was injured.

    When possible dumping normally takes place above 10,000 feet, in which case the fuel dissipates before hitting the ground. But when you have to get on the ground NOW, then you don’t have a lot of choice as to where to dump.

  8. @VASAviation has uploaded audio and video onto its YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIA90evz8gs.
    The original turn north and rapid climb was requested by the crew. At 19:38 UTC (6 minutes after departure and just after clearing the Santa Monica mountains at 8k) the crew declared an emergency (right engine compressor stall) and requested return to LAX. ATC asked if crew needed to dump fuel and pilots said no. Crew noted that the engine stalled but it was under control and not critical. They requested LAX 25R for weight. 1 min later reported 181 souls onboard and fuel of 212k lbs. At 19:41 crew advised ATC that “it just stalled, we got them terminated for now.” No audio was available at the time they jettisoned the fuel.

  9. Over seventy first responders for 27 people who got some fuel on them? Holy overkill.

    That’s like when my carbon monoxide detector went off and I called 911. I reported everyone was fine and outdoors, no proper emergency existed. They sent 3 fire trucks and I swear at least 8 firefighters walking through the entire house.

  10. No one was “injured”, some people had to take a shower and it smelled..boohoo. The media is blowing this way out of proportion, clearly the crew didn’t follow procedures and should be held accountable for that. ATC asked them TWICE if they needed to fuel dump and they said they said “negative” then did so below the minimum altitude so yes it should be looked into but that this is somehow national news is absurd. Having to take a shower isn’t an injury, its a minor inconvenience.

  11. Do airlines have some sort of insurance for incidents like this, as I imagine there will be a lots of lawsuits against Delta, especially considering it was and emergency?

  12. @Bill I’m not aware of non-emergency fuel dumps. I didn’t know airlines like to over fuel planes on purpose, then dump excess fuel as routine.

  13. How does Lucky cope with the amount of crap being fed into these replies.
    Clickbait. Headlines. cry babies. WTF
    Stop whining about every word in the world or leave if you dont like it.

    Great job on the blog Lucky, always great content.

  14. The audio is very interesting. Like others said, they were asked by the tower twice whether they needed to dump fuel and replied no. They picked a longer runway because they knew they were going on heavy. But they chose to dump fuel at 5,000 just minutes before landing?

  15. @jay and Ryan. They were children in a school so probably wasn’t an over reaction by the emergency services.

    To any others , a lawsuit is only viable if there are any damages
    Not “what if “.

    I highly suspect Delta being the company they are , will offer something proactive here such as tickets

  16. The LA Times reports that “According to Flightradar24, Tuesday’s flight never got above 8,000 feet, and was at about 2,300 feet when it passed over the school at 11:53 a.m.”

  17. I was in the LAX T2 sky club today as they were announcing boarding manually for the new flight at 1 pm. I had no idea this is what happened.

  18. Further proof that we are a nation of complete, utter, simpering morons.

    No “injuries.” A shower made things smell nicer for those suffering from the horrible, tragic effects of having a tiny bit of jetfuel nearby. I’m sure a lifetime of counseling and emotional support goats will be required to allow them to cope.

    Fooking idiots. No wonder the world is a mess.

    Shame on you for the usual clickbait and pearl-clutching.

  19. Still nobody is bringing this up. Fine, I’ll take the hit for y’all.

    Greta is going to go nuts over this.
    How dare you.
    Not only are you emitting carbon, you are dumping carbon directly into the environment.

    Greta’s incredible week taking a boat trip across the Atlantic just got negated by 25 mins of DL89.

    How dare you.
    And now getting soaked by fuel is considered an injury. I got injured by these vapor every few days. Have to live with this chronic injury as part of hazards for driving a car.

    This is an injury????
    LOL, sounds like your nose is as long as Greta’s parents now.

  20. It’s amazing to me how many ‘frequent fliers’ on this thread seem
    to think it’s preferable for jet fuel
    to land on kids than for an airliner to land overweight. People assume the risk
    of landing overweight when they get on a plane, but not the risk of being hit by fuel when they are playing at a school.

  21. 27 people showered in fuel in an emergency situation is a much better outcome, than say 150 people burning to death it a fire broke out in the emergency landing.

  22. The NTSB report for this one will likely be pretty interesting. The zeroes on the cheque Delta will be writing to make this go away, equally so.

  23. @bw Seriously? Only an idiot would suggest the plane should have gone and landed overweight and maybe lead to the death of everyone on board vs some kids who got inadvertently struck having to wash their face with soap and water.

  24. Aside from the emergency, I found a couple things interesting. The number of passengers on board seems very low for a long haul 777. Is this capacity on par for the route? Also, not knowing the logistics and protocol too well, wouldn’t it make for sense for an emergency aircraft to land at LAX with a reversed approach from the ocean? This would keep the fuel dump out to sea, but if something were to go tragically wrong, the plane would not be over a heavily populated area?

  25. What a coincidence that the fuel was dumped in San Gabriel and South LA. The majority low income communities and minorities. It is easy to say all they had to do was wash themselves with soap. However if it would have been any of your white kids you probably would be crying and getting your attorneys ready for a lawsuit. The fuel did not land on any of your children or you neighborhoods, and clearly most of you are unable to feel apathy!

  26. Really? They were injured by a small amount of fuel mist! This is how lame our country has become. Somebody smells fuel and we call 911.

  27. @Carmen

    You are suggesting that the pilots use their precious minutes dealing with engine problem to save the plane while also avoiding rich neighborhood and intentionally dump fuel on the ghetto. All of it is not pure coincidence but a malicious act.

    If the pilots could make it that easy then Captain Sully would be just a novice and these crew could bomb Iran in a Cessna without being hit by SAMs or AAAs.

  28. Clearly you guys can’t feel! You need to have some apathy in order to understand the outrage of this incident. No one wants fuel on them or around them. I wonder why the fuel was not dumped in Pasadena, Glendale or Burbank? I wonder why it was dumped in South East LA and South LA?

    Then these comments would have been different!

  29. I read this comment copied below on AVHerald from a 777 Pilot. Not only did they tell ATC that they did not need to dump fuel (then did with no ATC notice) but according to the math seen below had no necessity to do it.

    “As I happen to be a B777 captain, I did the math. Taking into consideration the payload (181 sob) and about 105 tons of fuel required for this flight, the takeoff weight should be around 270 tons. They did not shut down the engine. Nevertheless, good practice is to land as if it is a single engine landing. You can land using flaps 30 or 20. Mainly for go around climb gradient. No problem here, when your go around is over the sea, in 16 deg. For landing distance- 270 tons with flaps 20, with max braking gives about 5,500 feet. 25R is 11,500 feet long and you can use normal braking. they started dumping late. Dump rate in 777 is 2.5 tons per minute (with center tank). Dumping 10 tons gives you about 2 knots less on approach speed and less than 200 feet landing distance. Not worth it. Contrary to the FCTM an harmful. Draw your own conclusions.”

  30. Sadly, we have too many people like Carmen who assign “racist” motives to any and everything. As if the flight crew actually made an effort dump fuel on a school in a majority minority area. Besides, the “injuries” sound like they amount to having to be deconned with detergent and water. Oh the humanity!

    What an overblown clickbait story – and as guilty of this as Lucky is, others are far worse. And not just bloggers, the entire news media is hyping this thing. It’s nauseating.

  31. @stogieguy. I tend to agree that the story revolving around the fuel itself is overblown. Not to say that people enjoy having Jet fuel dumped on their heads.

    The real story is that they told ATC they would not need to dump fuel but did. And that they did so without any need as runway 25R was more than enough at their weight.

  32. @Stuart isn’t the stress/possible collapse of the landing gear a consideration for landing heavy?
    Also, are your figures in kg tons or lb tons? From what I google, max landing weight is 213 tons (kg)

  33. Looking past the somewhat-overblown issue of whether the jet fuel is super dangerous to get rained on with (which, to be fair, the general public shouldn’t be expected to immediately know the safety risk of a chemical that literally falls on them out of the sky)… The issue really seems to be whether there was *any need at all* for the plane to dump fuel, especially since it sounds like that wasn’t the initial plan as communicated to ATC.

    A fully loaded 777 can make a safe overweight landing even without dumping any fuel. Especially on a very long runway like LAX 25R. They are designed to do so.

    Dumping fuel to avoid a technically overweight landing really has the benefit of avoiding the need for extra maintenance and checks on landing gear before the next flight (but the landing gear can absolutely handle it), and to reduce the landing distance. Reducing stress on the landing gear and brakes is good for the airline (less repair cost) but doesn’t really decrease safety of the landing itself. Minimizing the distance required to land is only a concern when landing at a smaller airport not designed for normal landings by that type of plane. The LAX runway they landed on is by far long enough to accommodate an overweight 777 landing… and since they didn’t even dump that much fuel, that’s exactly what happened here.

    The pilots’ primary responsibility is absolutely safety. But people sometimes forget, in situations like this, that “safety” also includes the health and safety of people on the ground. If fuel dumping over populated areas were so risk-free (for health, safety, and environmental reasons) as to have zero impact on the decision-making of pilots and ATC in any emergency, they wouldn’t route planes over the ocean to do fuel dumps at all. But they do – so it IS a factor.

    The core of the issue is whether the risks (however minor) of dumping fuel at low altitude over a populated neighborhood are outweighed by the risks of simply making an overweight landing in a plane designed to make such landings in emergencies. Arguably, in this situation, it isn’t. Maybe we just don’t know about other factors, which would change that calculus – but the point is that this isn’t a totally open-and-shut case.

  34. You should take off the “Injured” and maybe change it to “exposed”. None of the people were injured in any way it sounds like, so clearly an inaccurate title. They were however “exposed” to a chemical. Sounds like they were properly evaluated by EMS personnel and no one was harmed by the exposure.

  35. I think it would be an interesting article on what actually happens during a fuel dump. I’ve always envisioned it being more of a mist or vapour, and not really landing per se, but it sounds like at this altitude it actually hit the ground. Certainly glad this incident wasn’t worse.

  36. So pilots are asked TWICE by ATC if they need to dump fuel: they say no.
    Then they do dump fuel on children and folks think it is a minor inconvenience.
    Fabulous! I wonder if your children had fuel from a 777 on them, if you would call it also a minor inconvenience.

  37. NPR just interviewed an aviation expert — I didn’t catch the name— who said that the plane could have landed at LAX without dumping fuel but it would then have had to be checked out afterwards. But it was going to be checked out anyway afterwards because of the engine issue. So his feeling was that the plane should have l just anded without dumping any fuel since it wasn’t high enough above the ground to dump the fuel safely.

  38. None of us were flying the plane, so we don’t know what was going on. The media played up kids crying because of the fuel spill. Lots more things in the air and ground in LA that are more dangerous than jet fuel. I am sure every ambulance chasing law firm in 100 miles has their Hispanic and other minority lawyers in the area asap.

  39. Looking at the flight path, and reading the comments above from people actually familiar with 777 weight limits and runway LAX 25R, the flight crew seems to have made some questionable decisions.
    1. They took off westbound over the ocean. When they first noticed the engine problem, they asked ATC if they could turn north to start a clockwise loop, mainly over land, back to LAX. If they had asked to turn south, they could have done a counterclockwise loop, mainly over water, back to LAX.
    2. Their over land loop required them climb to 8000 feet to clear the Santa Monica Mountains, while they were having engine problems. An over water loop would have let them immediately level off and reduce engine strain.
    3. An over water loop would have made it much easier to dump fuel.
    4. They told ATC twice they did NOT need to dump fuel, then dumped fuel anyway. As experts have said above, even a fully loaded 777 can safely land on LAX 25R without dumping fuel.
    5. When they made landfall over the Santa Monica Mountains, they could have dumped fuel there, the mountains are sparsely populated.
    6. Midway eastbound on their loop, they passed over Griffith Park (south of Burbank/Glendale), another sparsely populated area where they could have dumped fuel.
    7. Further along the loop (southbound just before switching to westbound), they passed over Chino Hills State Park, yet another sparsely populated area they could have dumped fuel.
    8. But instead, they waited until the last part of the loop before LAX, over a densely populated area at a low altitude, to dump fuel.
    9. And as experts have said above, they didn’t dump much fuel, so it wouldn’t have made much difference in landing, and it wasn’t necessary to dump fuel at all to safely land on LAX 25R.

    Yes, we don’t have all the facts, but the facts we do have point to some questionable decisions by the flight crew.

  40. If people can get worked up about words on a screen (such as the headline), then they would 100% get even more worked up if THEY were the ones who had jet fuel dumped on them. Downplaying it seems crazy if some headline on a blog is enough to get you annoyed.

  41. It is puzzling. Apparently the engine was experiencing Compressor stalls,but the crew radioed that they had It back.So I imagine as per the memory items for the B777,they reduced the throttle on the affected engine until the Compressor stalling ceased.It is not strange that they elected not to fuel dump,as with only one healthy engine & the other at reduced power,one would not want to waste time fuel dumping,especially at such a relatively low altitude,in case an issue arose with the good engine. They were offered RWY 24R but Requested RWY 25R ,so ,it was clear that an overweight landing was going to be made & so it is unclear as to why the fuel dump took place over a populated area,when the aircraft ,though being handled as an emergency, was not in imminent danger& they had previously expressed no desire to fuel dump.An overweight landing only requires a Tech Log Entry & an Overweight Landing inspection ,so something must have triggered them to fuel dump,when having previously decided not to.

    As to the term “Injuries”,maybe some kids had fuel enter their eyes,mouths etc,which then would be classed as an injury.Hospitalization is not a prerequisite for something being deemed an injury.

    One would expect members of this forum to be empathetic,to any race colour or creed,who experienced any discomfort,due to this incident

  42. If some people had to go to the hospital or seek other medical attention, let us just say, would the airline really pay for that?!?!?! Getting the payment is probably easier said than done.

  43. I actually have one question – to pilots. (I am not a pilot btw)
    I recall that some years ago Aeroflot Superjet 100 made an overweight landing and burst into flames. (SU1492) I read the reports and the aircraft was 1.6 tonnes overweight over 41 tonnes MLW. That would be 3.9 per cent overweight landing, and half of the people burnt to death.

    Reading the thread, this Delta aircraft seems to have been around 260 tonnes before dumping fuel, which is around 47 tonnes above MLW at 213 tonnes. That would have been 22 per cent overweight landing. So could it be said that this Delta aircraft was seriously close to becoming another Aeroflot SSJ 100 had it not dumped fuel, or was there anything different from that Aeroflot aircraft (such as Boeing 777 being better-built than SSJ 100 or etc…)?

  44. Omg Carmen are you serious? Are you really trying to make this into some sort of racial incident. Wow!

    As for BWs comment do you really think attempting to land a wide body that is overweight with the potential to run out of runway injuring or killing people is preferable to what happened?

  45. The comments on this thread are terrible. Kids shouldn’t get jet fuel dumped on them period. And if they did, there better be a good and justifiable reason for it. It seems that the ATC asked the pilots TWICE if they needed to dump fuel and they respond NO. But then do it anyway without clearance. And according to other 777 experts, dumping wasn’t necessary given the circumstances. Clearly protocol was not followed here and Delta has some explaining to do.

    Stop calling this clickbait – the article heading states a true fact. If YOU assumed facts (i.e. fault, serious injuries, etc.) not stated in the title, that’s on YOU. Maybe you should complain to your therapist instead of Lucky.

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