A Delta Air Lines 717-200 flying between Houston and Atlanta diverted to Mongomery late last week after a fuel leak.
Delta Air Lines DL2366 was en route to Atlanta on Friday, August 2, 2019, when suspicions were raised of a fuel leak. The crew elected to divert to Montgomery, at that point some 30 nautical miles away and landed safely.
Emergency crews awaiting the arrival of the aircraft were able to confirm the fuel leak. It was stopped and the plane was able to taxi safely and disembark the 62 passengers and five crew.
The flight, already running several hours late, remained on the ground in Montgomery for over six hours before continuing onto Atlanta. It arrived there approximately 10 hours behind schedule.
Why couldn’t the crew stop the leak whilst airborne?
The 717-200 is one the most common aircraft types Delta Air Lines flies. They currently have 91 in the skies. The aircraft can carry 110 passengers.
Frequently, the crew can stop a fuel leak whilst airborne. But the 717-200 does not have a dump valve. There is a fuel vent system which prevents the spilling of fuel during ground and flight operations.
The incident was reported in the Aviation Herald and a correspondent noted that he thought the Delta Air Lines crew did an outstanding job of handling the fuel leak.
“Operationally, Delta crews are very good at monitoring the fuel status during the entire flight. In my opinion, the crew noticed an unusual fuel burn situation and diverted in the interest of safety!”
Fuel leaks are not uncommon
Fuel leaks, or suspected fuel leaks, are not uncommon events. In March, a Delta Air Lines 767 en route from Atlanta to Munich was forced to turn around shortly after takeoff after indications of a fuel leak.
Said one passenger on that flight;
“I was on this flight. I was just gazing out the window during takeoff and at first I thought I was looking at condensation, but it was in a really tight stream. It then looked almost like we were dumping fuel during the takeoff. It started almost immediately when we started accelerating down the runway and didn’t stop until we were off the ground. “
And it isn’t an issue that’s restricted to Delta. All airlines periodically have problems with real or suspected fuel leaks.
United Airlines was forced to return to the gate at Newark after a 767 bound for Venice didn’t even make it as far as the runway. Passengers noticed fuel spilling from the wings while the aircraft was still taxiing.
In June 2019, an American Airlines 767 flying from Budapest to Philadelphia was forced to divert to Frankfurt after suspecting a fuel leak
A Virgin Australia flight to Hong Kong was recently forced to return to Melbourne after a stream of vapor was seen coming from an engine during takeoff.
Fuel leaks, or suspected fuel leaks, are common enough events. The fact that they remain mere incidents rather than escalating into major events, illustrates that airlines and their crews are well versed and trained in handling such events.
The safe de-planing of passengers and crew in Montgomery last Friday is indicative that the worst that usually happens is a delay. Annoying but hardly life-threatening.
Delta Air Lines did not respond to a request for a comment.