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- A Delta Air Lines plane dumped jet fuel over Los Angeles schoolkids before an emergency landing on Tuesday.
- The FAA is investigating why the dumping took place, despite guidelines that it should only be done over unpopulated areas, and so high up that the fuel can evaporate.
- Transcripts of the pilot talking to air traffic control show him saying that he wasn’t planning on dumping fuel, right before he did.
- CNN aviation David Soucie said the dumping could have been an error, prompted by imprecise language used by the air traffic controller in a high-stress situation.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A Delta Air Lines flight may have dumped jet fuel on schoolkids playing thousands of feet below because of a communication error with air traffic control, according to an aviation expert.
Former safety inspector David Soucie, now an analyst for CNN, told the network that a potentially confusing exchange directly beforehand may have led to flight 89 jettisoning its fuel on Tuesday.
Fuel dumping is a normal emergency procedure when a heavily loaded plane like this Boeing 777 — which was headed to Shanghai, China — needs to land shortly after takeoff.
But Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines say to do it only away from populated areas and at a high enough elevation that the fuel can evaporate.
The FAA is investigating why the fuel was in this case dumped in such a way that it could land on several elementary schools.
The information prompting Soucie’s suggestion of a botched exchange comes from recordings obtained by the Associated Press (AP) between the pilot and air traffic control.
During the exchange, the pilot tells air traffic control that the flight crew was able to get the situation back under control”
“We’re not critical,” the pilot said.
“OK, so you don’t need to hold or dump fuel or anything like that?” the controller asked.
“Ah, negative,” the pilot responded.
Business financial make money capital trading One word that could prompt a critical mistake
Soucie told CNN that the communication error may have been down to a confusing negative used by the controller.
Soucie, a former FAA safety inspector, said the controller should have asked if the plane needed to dump fuel without using the word “don’t.”
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The implication is that a misheard question could have led the pilot to believe that the controller cleared the dump, when they did not.
They also should have repeated his questions for clarity, Soucie said.
Delta told Business Insider that it is still investigating exactly what happened.