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NGXfanatic

Watched an airliner dump fuel live!

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Yesterday was an uneventful Sunday evening for me.  It was a picture perfect day with clear blue skies, and I was on my way to the local Kohls to pick up a Father's Day gift, on Rt3 in West Chester PA (my hometown airport is KPHL)   Out of the corner of my eye I observe what looked like a KC-135 or a DC-8 in a tight bank, flying low and slow, with massive contrails forming.   Very unusual for the altitude it was at, my first thought was that it was involved in an airshow performance.   Then it occurred to me, I may be witnessing a fuel jettison operation!  

 

I missed the chance to snap a shot on my cellphone camera, but I suspected it would return, so I pulled into the nearest parking lot positioned to capture the moment.  Sure enough, the aircraft turned and to my surprise, broke away from the expected circling pattern and flew directly overhead.   I was using a P.O.S. 9 year old cellphone, and while fixated on getting the shot correctly, I failed to pay close attention to the type of aircraft.   It was low but not low enough for me to discern what it was, my best guess, it was a DC-8 freighter with the newer turbofans.   But I did see it had it's landing gear down, and right when it was overhead, the mist from the fuel dump valves had trailed off.   So it looks like I had caught the end of the dump, and it was on it's way to wherever it was going, so I went along on my merry way hoping to closely examine the photos I took later.

 

Upon my return home, I was dismayed to see the photos were pretty bad, as would be expected with a 9 year old dinophone.   I was determined to find out what happened, so I started my Google search.   Lucky for me, I find someone taped the event from their home and uploaded the video to Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDzVQNi9L4Q

 

Turned out it was the daily Lufthansa A340 flight from KPHL to EDDF, using a A340-600, and the crew apparently declared an emergency necessitating a fuel dump to return to the airport.  I can't believe I didn't think that was the aircraft I observed, but I was so used to seeing a A340-300 utilized on this route for ages.   And I was too distracted by my P.O.S. phone to pay close attention to the details of the craft in question.  Anyhow, the gear was down, the "contrails" had stopped, and it looked like it was given vectors to join the BOJID STAR to runway 27R at KPHL.   Well, it looks like the longer 27L was used instead for obvious reasons, as seen in the Flight-aware record here: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/DLH427/history/20140615/2145Z/KPHL/EDDF

 

I missed the local late night newscasts, but the event was actually the main story on one of the local channels! : http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/25782847/lufthansa-flight-427-heads-to-germany-after-being-diverted-at-phl

 

I was hoping to hear what transpired between ATC and the crew on LiveATC's archived recordings, but the feed for the time in question is not available for some reason.  Hopefully it will be available in the near future!

 

Anyhow, this event made my day.  I have seen plenty of missed approaches, strange aircraft types, and wayward vectors, and I love to check Flight-aware to confirm these types of unusual traffic behavior, but this is the only in air "emergency" or major aviation event I have ever had the good fortune to witness with my own two eyes!  


A.J. Domingo

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It obviously made your day.


Gerry Howard

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Here is a cockpit video of a Swiss A340 doing a fuel dump on a flight from Zurich to Shanghai (returning to Zurich over the Alpes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEf35NtlBLg

 

Very relaxed crew having some nice swiss chocolate during the dump and engine No.3 shutdown. Wondering if they would have been as cool on an A330 (twin engine)...

 

Greetings,

Claus


Claus KUEPPER

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Hell, I would have been excited just to see an a346 in flight. I Have never seen one before... let alone a fuel dump!


Peter James

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Hell, I would have been excited just to see an a346 in flight. I Have never seen one before... let alone a fuel dump!

Yep, I can't believe I didn't notice it was even an a340 at first.  Longest fuselage in the world, until the Boeing 747-8 came around.   Production ended in 2011, killed off by Airbus because of the 777 since Airbus could no longer tout the advantages of 4 engines for safety reasons versus twins with the adoption of ETOPS certification for the 777, plus there were additional fuel costs with the two additional engines.  I'm so used to seeing the -300 DLH around here, but I have seen a Qatar -600 on go around at Heathrow, and a Singapore -500 on finals at Newark when it flew the record longest commercial route between KEWR and WSSS in Singapore.  

 

Thankfully, the flight arrived back safely at Philadelphia International, was checked out by the mechanics, and went on to Frankfurt later that day.  I don't imagine I will ever see such an event again, it was quite a treat to see firsthand. 


A.J. Domingo

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