Fuel Dump Over Schools in LA Sparks Outrage

Anish Susarla| 01/18/2020

On January 14th, Delta Flight 89, on its way from Los Angeles to Shanghai-Pudong, experienced an engine compressor stall immediately after takeoff, requiring an emergency landing back to LAX.

The aircraft involved in the incident is N860DA, a 20 year old Boeing 777-200ER which is pictured here.  Credit to Winston Shek

The flight started off normally taking off on 24L from LAX.  However, shortly after departure, DL89 reported an emergency for an engine compressor stall on the right engine.  Delta 89 heavy says the situation is under control and decides to turn back to LAX. When specifically asked about dumping fuel, Delta 89 states, "Negative.  We'll be requesting Runway 25R." The aircraft held at 8,000 feet before turning on final for 25R. When on final, DL89 heavy is on final for 25R where it dumps fuel over multiple neighborhoods. 

Fuel dumping, also known as fuel jettison, is a procedure used by the pilot of an aircraft in certain emergency situations.  It is recommended that fuel be dumped above 6000 feet mainly over unpopulated areas, like the ocean, where the fuel would evaporate in the air before it hits the ground.  "In this emergency situation, the fuel-dumping procedure did not occur at an optimal altitude that would have allowed the fuel to atomize properly," the FAA said in a statement. 

The fuel dumped by Delta Flight 89 touched down at three schools, causing students playing outside to feel a burning sensation.  Health experts say that this particular fuel dump is unlikely to cause any long-term health problems, four Los Angeles teachers sued Delta Airlines for dumping fuel over playgrounds and schools, citing emotional distress, knowing that they have involuntarily ingested toxic fuel, and an irritating burning sensation.

A student cries as they evacuate school grounds after Tuesday's incident.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

Delta Airlines has yet to comment on the incident.

What are your thoughts on the situation?  What type of justification should there be for the pilot's negligence?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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