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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-81-014
Details
Synopsis: ON DECEMBER 28, 1978, UNITED AIR LINES FLIGHT 173, A DC-8-61 AIRCRAFT, CRASHED AS A RESULT OF FUEL EXHAUSTION NEAR THE PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, PORTLAND, OREGON, AFTER HOLDING IN THE VICINITY OF THE AIRPORT FOR APPROXIMATELY 1 HOUR WHILE THE FLIGHTCREW ATTEMPTED TO RESOLVE LANDING GEAR PROBLEMS. ON OCTOBER 20, 1979, A PAN AMERICAN AIRWAYS BOEING 747 DECLARED AN INFLIGHT EMERGENCY BECAUSE OF A LOW FUEL STATE. THE INVESTIGATION REVEALED AN ERROR IN THE AIRCRAFT'S QUANTITY GAGES WHICH INDICATED MORE FUEL THAN THE FUEL TANKS ACTUALLY CONTAINED. ALTHOUGH THE ERROR WAS WITHIN THE MANUFACTURER'S ALLOWABLE TOLERANCES, IT CONTRIBUTED TO THE CREW'S FAILURE TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY FUEL SITUATION EARLIER IN THE FLIGHT. THE SAFETY BOARD IS CONCERNED THAT THE PILOT-IN-COMMAND OF THE DC-8-61 AIRCRAFT DID NOT HAVE GUIDANCE INFORMATION FOR A MINIMUM ALLOWABLE AMOUNT OF FUEL WITH WHICH TO BEGIN THE APPROACH/LANDING. THE SAFETY BOARD BELIEVES THAT MINIMUM FUEL QUANTITIES BELOW WHICH LANDING SHOULD NOT BE DELAYED SHOULD BE SPECIFIED FOR ALL AIRCRAFT THAT ARE OPERATED UNDER 14 CFR 121 AND 14 CFR 135. MOREOVER, THE BOARD BELIEVES THAT ALLOWANCES FOR FUEL QUANTITY MEASURING SYSTEM TOLERANCES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN MAKING A MINIMUM APPROACH/LANDING FUEL DETERMINATION.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: AMEND 14 CFR 121 AND 14 CFR 135 TO REQUIRE THAT ALL AIR CARRIER OPERATORS INCLUDE IN THEIR FLIGHT OPERATIONS MANUALS MINIMUM OPERATIONAL FUEL REQUIREMENTS FOR THEIR AIRCRAFT, INCLUDING FUEL QUANTITIES BELOW WHICH A LANDING SHOULD NOT BE DELAYED. IN DETERMINING MINIMUM FUEL QUANTITIES, ALLOWANCES SHOULD BE MADE FOR FUEL QUANTITY MEASURING SYSTEM TOLERANCES AND FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF A MISSED APROACH.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: Portland, OR, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA79AA005
Accident Reports: United Airlines, Inc., McDonnell- Douglas, DC-8-61, N8082U
Report #: AAR-79-07
Accident Date: 12/28/1978
Issue Date: 2/24/1981
Date Closed: 4/8/1982
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 4/8/1982
Response: After reviewing your response to the Safety Board's request for reconsideration of A-81-14 we offer the following comments. Although your reply cites a review of accidents and incidents related to fuel mismanagement by Part 135 and 121 operators, which indicates a low incidence of this problem, the Safety Board believes that the inclusion of fuel quantities as part of the minimum operational fuel requirements in air carrier flight operation manuals has merit. Therefore, we have classified your response as "Closed--Unacceptable Action."

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/21/1981
Response: FAA LTR: THE FAA BELIEVES EXISTING REGULATIONS APPLICABLE TO 14 CFR 121 AND 14 CFR 135 OPERATIONS ADEQUATELY ADDRESS THE FUEL REQUIREMENTS FOR BOTH NORMAL AND ABNOMAL OCCURRENCES. MANY SECTIONS OF THE FEDERAL AVIATION REGULATIONS REQUIRE SPECIFIC FUEL AMOUNTS FOR OPERATIONS UNDER INSTRUMENT FLIGHT RULES (IFR) AND VISUAL FLIGHT RULES (VFR). EACH IFR AND VFR FLIGHT CURRENTLY REQUIRES COMPREHENSIVE FUEL PLANNING TO ENSURE SAFE OPERATION WITH ADEQUATE FUEL RESERVES. FOR EXAMPLE, 14 CFR 135 REQUIREMENTS VARY FROM 20 MINUTES FOR HELICOPTERS TO 30 MINUTES FOR AIRPLANES WHEN PLANNING EN ROUTE FUEL RESERVES FOR A DAYLIGHT VFR FLIGHT. FOR AN IFR FLIGHT, FLIGHT PLANNING REQUIRES FUEL TO THE DESTINATION AIRPORT, TO THE ALTERNATE AIRPORT, AND THEN FUEL FOR AN ADDITIONAL 45 MINUTES AT NORMAL CRUISE SPEED AFTER ARRIVING AT THE ALTERNATE AIRPORT.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 9/24/1981
Response: Although the review by the FAA has concluded otherwise, we continue to believe that flight operations manuals should include the minimum fuel quantity below which a landing should not be delayed. This vital information would thus be readily available to the flightcrew. Our investigation revealed that the captain did not know the minimum fuel required to complete an approach flight from outer marker to threshold, nor had the airline provided this information. Moreover, other flightcrews operating the same type equipment varied widely in their estimates of the amount of fuel required for an approach and go-around. In all instances, we found that no company guidance was given in this area. The FARs cited in the FAA's response do not satisfy the intent of the recommendation. While 14 CFR Part 121.639, 14 CFR 121.647, and pertinent requirements of 14 CFR Part 135 and 14 CFR Part 91 encompass a broad range of fuel planning requirements, we do not believe the responsibility of an operator to assure their flightcrews are aware of the minimum fuel quantity needed for an approach and go-around is adequately addressed. In addition, Bulletins 8-79-2 and 8-79-4 do not address the subject of the fuel quantity required for approach and go-around nor do they stress the importance of such knowledge to flightcrews. Based upon the above considerations we request the FAA to reconsider this response to A-81-14 which we have classified in an "Open--Unacceptable Action" status.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/20/1981
Response: FAA LTR: SUFFICIENT GUIDANCE IS PRESENTLY AVAILABLE ON THE SUBJECT OF FUEL PLANNING REQUIREMENTS AND PIC RESPONSIBILITIES. REFERENCES WERE MADE TO FAR 121.647, FAR 121.639, FAR 91.5 AND 91.23, FAR 135.61, FAR 91.3, FAR 121.555, FAR 121.557, FAR 121.627. ALSO ACOB 8-79-2 AND 8-79-4; ACOB 8-79-2 RESPONDS TO POSSIBLE MISINTERPRETATION OF FUEL GAGES, ACOB 8-79-4 FLIGHT PLANNING TO ALTERNATE AIRPORT.