Confusion abounded when Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) Flight 89 dumped fuel during an emergency landing earlier this month. While the procedure can be necessary at times, Flight 89 violated several restrictions while doing so – causing them to jettison the fuel over a populated school. The fuel doused 67 children and educators as a result, creating a considerable incident for Delta Air Lines. The opening days of the associated investigation have only deepened the mystery.
Fuel dumps are a relatively routine part of emergency landings. However, most events require the plane to have achieved a high enough altitude to allow the fuel to evaporate before land fall. Worst case scenario, the plane may be allowed to vent fuel closer to the ground if they are away from a populated area. In Flight 89’s case, had they requested permission, it would have been denied. In fact, when questioned prior to their emergency landing, the pilot claimed it would not be necessary.
Delta: Repercussions and Aftermath
In the immediate aftermath of the fuel dump, many teachers and students reacted with reasonable surprise. This may have worsened the situation, as they looked up in time to receive exposure to their eyes and mouth. This has prompted some educators to seek damages from Delta. It is further likely that the fuel will contaminate some of the affected sites.
It is also likely that the event will lead to questions regarding Delta’s in-house procedures. While such a fuel dump is certainly against Delta’s official rules, a chain of errors clearly led to the pilot’s actions. The FAA and other associated regulatory bodies will keep a closer eye on Delta moving forward. Thus far, Delta’s stock prices have not been impacted – trading at $62 and up from last month’s price.
Greater Aviation Scrutiny
Delta’s incident comes at a time of greater aviation scrutiny across the board. In addition to the fuel dump, a Delta flight recently slid off the runway at Kansas City International Airport in Missouri. This comes in the wake of the now infamous grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet. Boeing’s flagship airframe remains inactive, although regulators are working to re-certify it.
Although aviation companies are not to blame, the recent downing of Ukraine Airlines Flight 752 leaving Iran drew further attention to plane disasters. These events combined have created a perhaps overblown public apprehension at air travel – something that air lines will have to work to overcome.
Article By: Adam Stone