Jet Airways plane lands with 'insufficient fuel'; pilots suspended

New Delhi: As many as 142 passengers and eight crew members of a Jet Airways flight from Doha to Kochi had a narrow escape after the plane landed at Trivandrum airport without the mandatory reserve fuel requirement, leading to the suspension of both the pilots by the aviation regulator, sources said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), which functions under the civil aviation ministry, to probe the incident which took place on August 18, terming it 'serious', they added.

The fuel in the Boeing 737-800 aircraft was on reserve with only 270-kg of air fuel left at the time of landing at Trivandrum airport as against a mandatory requirement of 1,500-kg of fuel along with alternative fuel, the sources said. Following the incident, DGCA is now reviewing the fuel uplift policy of the airline to examine whether it was carrying less fuel to save costs, they said.

The aircraft was scheduled to land at Kochi airport but, after failing to do so despite three go-arounds due to bad weather, the pilot sought diversion to Trivandrum airport citing a 'fuel emergency' rather than taking it to the nearest airport, which was Bangalore.

"Trivandrum airport also had bad weather and the pilot could land there only on the fourth attempt.

Moreover, in a violation of unscheduled landing norms, the commander diverted the plane to Trivandrum and not the nearest airport, which was Bangalore in this case," the sources said.

According to the DGCA's fuel policy, an aircraft should carry taxi fuel, trip fuel, contingency fuel (which is five per cent of the trip fuel), alternative fuel as well as holding fuel for 30 minutes. "Even a 10 minute taxiing of a Boeing 737-800 burns 270-kg of fuel," sources said.

Jet Airways spokesperson said, "Jet Airways flight 9W 555 en route from Doha to Kochi, was diverted to Trivandrum as a precautionary measure as the runway at Kochi was not visible due to the presence of low clouds. This is as per the standard operating safety procedure. The flight landing with 141 guests was uneventful.

"At Jet Airways safety is of paramount importance, and to this end, planning of flight operations are conducted with a very high level of safety. This includes a fuel uplift that not only meets all regulatory requirements, it has additional buffers to cater to unexpected scenarios including poor weather at the alternate airport."

The spokesperson added, "Since the matter is under investigation by the airline safety team as also the DGCA, we are unable to comment any further on the matter."

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