Just weeks after a loose horse aboard a cargo jet forced a pilot to dump nearly 6,000 gallons of fuel off Nantucket, a jet airliner conducted another fuel dump south of the island last week after experiencing engine trouble.
The El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was flying from New Jersey to Tel Aviv last Tuesday when it declared mayday due to an issue with its left engine, according to air traffic control recordings.
The pilots stated the aircraft's left engine was running at idle power, and requested to dump fuel as they diverted the flight to the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
The plane dumped nearly 600 gallons of fuel at an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet just south of Nantucket, according to the air traffic control recording of the incident. It later landed at JFK without incident and taxied to its gate with 294 passengers and crew members aboard.
Fuel dumping is a relatively common tactic in situations when aircraft are required to land sooner than anticipated, as landings require less weight than takeoffs.
"The reason to dump fuel is simple: to drop weight," according to FlightRadar 24, a global flight tracking service. "Any given aircraft has a Maximum Landing Weight (MLW) at which it can land, and in most cases that weight is lower than its Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW). So if an airplane has to return to its departure airport shortly after takeoff – especially when it’s loaded up with fuel for an 11-hour flight like London to Los Angeles – it will likely need to reduce weight in order to land."
What happens to the fuel and does it reach the ground? When aircraft jettison fuel at altitudes above 5,000 feet, the fuel vaporizes before it reaches the ground, or in our case, water.