Diverted to Lucknow, Vistara flight calls ‘Mayday’ as fuel level dips
The pilot of Mumbai-Delhi flight UK944 could not land in Lucknow on the first attempt and was headed to Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) before being called back by the Lucknow Air Traffic Controller (ATC).Updated: Jul 17, 2019 09:33 IST
A Vistara flight to New Delhi, diverted to Lucknow because of bad weather after hovering over the Capital for an hour, eventually landed with minimum fuel left on Monday evening after the pilot sounded a Mayday alert to signal a potential emergency .
The pilot of Mumbai-Delhi flight UK944 could not land in Lucknow on the first attempt and was headed to Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) before being called back by the Lucknow Air Traffic Controller (ATC).
“[Flight UK944]” initiated a diversion to Lucknow because of the bad weather over Delhi. However, over Lucknow, the visibility suddenly dropped and a safe landing was not possible. The crew then considered alternative airfields, including Kanpur and Prayagraj, to land in comparatively better weather conditions,” a Vistara spokesperson said.
“En route to Prayagraj, Lucknow ATC then informed the crew that the weather in Lucknow had improved significantly, following which the crew decided to return to Lucknow due to better passenger and aircraft support there. The unexpected drop in visibility at the alternate destination was the main reason why the aircraft ended up in a low-fuel situation despite carrying excess fuel over and above the required Flight Plan Fuel as per regulations. Safety of passengers and crew was kept at the highest priority throughout the flight,” the spokesperson added.
The flight had taken off from Mumbai with 153 passengers at 3.30pm and was near Delhi around 5pm. It was then diverted to Lucknow around 5.45 pm and after trying to head to Prayagraj, it landed at Lucknow around 6.30pm. The plane came back to Delhi at 1am.
“I am in Vistara flight UK 944 Mumbai- Delhi. We were expected to land in Delhi at 4.55pm. Due to traffic congestion, pilot said, we will be flying to Lucknow. The flight path experience is worst than Gemini Circus’s Giant wheel,” a passenger, Sheela Bhatt, wrote on Twitter.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aviation regulator, had on July 5 asked airlines in India to carry enough fuel to fly to two alternative destinations, factoring in adverse weather conditions in some parts of the country.
DGCA issued the safety circular after investigating incidents wherein the crew declared Mayday for seeking priority landing clearance either because of adverse weather conditions or due to airport limitations.
It has also asked ATC o facilitate early landing of crew declared “minimum fuel.”
“This is not an emergency situation but an indication that an emergency situation is possible, should any additional delay occur. The ATC should facilitate the early landing for the aircraft,” the circular reads.
In a few cases that DGCA investigated, it found that after landing, the fuel available in some aircraft was less than the planned final reserve fuel.
“Investigation of these incidents have revealed deficiencies in fuel planning, crew decision-making, and support provided by ATC. In some cases, fuel carried on-board did not cater for second alternate. Also, crew did not declare MINIMUM FUEL to ATC, and after a crew has declared a MINIMUM FUEL, ATC has given additional clearances resulting in further depletion of fuel,” the DGCA circular said.
DGCA guidelines prescribe the minimum fuel requirements for the operation of aircraft. According to the regulator, during adverse weather conditions or because of airport limitations, a second alternative destination should also be factored in by airlines during the flight planning stage.
First Published: Jul 16, 2019 23:10 IST