MIAMI – In the afternoon of 14th January 2020, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 (DAL89) departed Los Angeles bound for Shanghai Pudong Airport in China. Shortly after departure, the aircraft experienced an engine malfunction, which resulted in the aircraft having immediately to return to Los Angeles.
As the aircraft returned, the flight crew dumped fuel as the aircraft was well beyond its maximum landing weight. The aircraft is a 20-year-old Boeing 777-200(ER) registered as N860DA.
During the fuel-dumping procedure, a total of 31 students and adults from an elementary school in the area, presented minor injuries because the aircraft was not flying high enough for the fuel to evaporate.
A total of 20 children and 11 adults were treated by emergency services.
In normal circumstances, there are designated areas that have been outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where aircraft can safely jettison fuel over unpopulated areas at a higher altitude. The procedure ensures that the fuel will evaporate before it reaches the ground.
Shortly after the incident, the FAA released a statement on Twitter that said, “The FAA is thoroughly investigating the circumstances behind today’s incident involving a Delta Air Lines flight that was returning to Los Angeles International Airport.”
The FAA continued to add about how their fuel-dumping procedures operate. “There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major US airport. These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground”.
Delta Air Lines noted that “shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue require the aircraft to return quickly to LAX. The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of a normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight.”
The airline added that it is “in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and LA County Fire Department and share concerns regarding reported minor injuries to adults and children at a school in the area.”
According to a study released by ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry), the health effects of exposure to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels can cause liver damage, decreased immune response, impaired performance on neurological function tests and impaired hearing. For animals, it can cause dermatitis and damage to their skin.
The symptoms of Jet A1 exposure in children are coughing, pneumonia, shortness of breath, vomiting, fever, unconsciousness, drowsiness, and irritability. These effects are similar to the effects that would be seen from adults who have ingested kerosene.
This is a developing story.