Fuel Dumped on Elementary School Students as Delta 777 Makes Emergency Landing

On Tuesday, a Delta Airlines Flight 89, a Boeing 777-200 traveling from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Shanghai, experienced an inflight emergency shortly after takeoff.  The emergency was due to the aircraft experiencing an engine compressor stall.  The captain turned the plane back towards LAX and performed the emergency landing checklist.

Delta Airlines 777-200
Delta Airlines 777-200

The aircraft had a full fuel load for the 12 hour flight to China.  While the heavy fuel load is ok for takeoffs, it poses problems when landing.  This required the pilot to perform a rather routine fuel dump to bring the gross weight of the plane down within landing limits.  The fuel dump is usually done over water or uninhabited land, however, this pilot performed the fuel dump directly above the city of Los Angeles.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a total of 60 patients were treated after the fuel dump, 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.

The airplane only made it to 8,000 feet and was at 2,300 feet while dumping fuel over the area.  The altitude was significantly lower than what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) suggests.  This led to them opening an investigation into the incident.    

Delta Airlines reacted quickly to the jet fuel contamination, as seen in the following press release

Delta participated in a joint press conference with the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), local health and community officials Wednesday morning to confirm that schools in the area of a jet fuel release had been cleaned and cleared for students to attend class.

Tuesday evening the airline dispatched 13 cleaning crews to work with LAUSD crews at the schools to clean all outside surface areas that students could come into contact with.

Dana Debel, Delta’s Managing Director of Government Affairs, provided an update at the press conference, saying airline teams worked through the night in partnership with LAUSD to ensure that all the schools were safe and able to open Wednesday. She also reiterated Delta’s commitment to working with the schools and community to address needs going forward.

During the press conference a spokesperson for the L.A. County Health Department said more had been done than was required, and that residual health effects are not expected.

The airline continues working closely LAUSD’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety department to assist those affected by the emergency landing of Flight 89.

Individuals and property owners who believe they may have been affected by the jet fuel release can contact Delta at 800-441-5955 for more information. 

I am happy that no one, whether on the ground or in the plane, was seriously injured during inflight emergency.  The outcome of this situation could have been far worse.  It is my hope that Delta retrains their pilots on proper fuel dumping procedures to prevent this from happening in the future.   

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