Whoops. Allegiant Air Almost Runs Out of Fuel While Trying to Land at Closed Airport

Flight delays happen pretty often in travel.  When I’m flying on a late night flight to Reagan, I’m hoping the delays don’t push us past the airport closing because then we divert to Dulles–which is bit more difficult to get out of (and I used to live right by Reagan airport).

A flight delay caused  Allegiant Air to take off an hour later.  The problem is, their original flight time had their plane landing 12 minutes before the airport was supposed to close for training exercises.

According to the Tampa Bay Times:

The pilot told the tower on Thursday that he didn’t have enough fuel to make it to a back-up airport, so he was forced to declare an emergency to clear airspace for a landing at Fargo’s Hector International Airport, according to a recording of air traffic between the pilot and tower available on the website LiveATC.net.

At one point, an air traffic controller rebuked the airline for its apparent ignorance of the airport closing, which the Federal Aviation Administration provides notice of far in advance.

“Your company … should have been aware of this for a number of months,” the controller said.

In the recording, they asked the pilot to wait a few minutes where they figure things out.  The pilot replied that he didn’t have that long–that he was on bingo fuel.

Edit:  Fargo Airport was closed and the flight was en-route from Las Vegas to Fargo on July 27th, 2015 when this occurred. 

If you wanted to hear the entire flight air traffic recording, you can do so here:

The crazy part is how confused the pilot sounds.  He explains that Allegiant Air has been trying to call in for a while to land, but the air traffic controller responds that they should have known the airport is closed.

The part that I don’t fully understand is how they hit “bingo fuel” so quickly.  I find it hard to believe they arrived at their destination with so little fuel.  They circled for a while, but wouldn’t someone have realized the airport was closed at some point and diverted them to a nearby airport?

What do you think went wrong here?

There’s an update here.

And here’s another update.

giving all shes got captain

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Somthings fishy with the story. FAA rules require a plane to have enough fuel at takeoff to travel to an alternate airport + 45 minutes.

    So either they took off in violation of FAA regs or they circled for far longer than the article implies.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Yeah, though I’m leaning towards the first. My questions are: would they have circled that long without any ground contact? If they had no contact, wouldn’t they have diverted sooner?

      Also, ground seemed willing to clear them for landing if they just waited, but it sounded like this was the first ground heard of them.

      So I definitely agree with you here.

  2. Mister Popupwindow

    How many pop-up, slide-in, etc boxes do you need to have on your page. When you make it hard to read your blog, people won’t come back to your blog.

  3. OR is it Allegiant Air’s policy to fly with minimum fuel to save weight would not be the first this this happened

  4. Part of the issue could have been the isolation of Fargo. If they circled for a while they might not have had enough fuel to get to a diversion airport. What would be the closest? Grand Forks? It’s not like diverting from DCA to Dulles in your example, it is another 100 miles that they might not have had fuel for.

    Obviously Allegiant screwed up here but was it on their dispatch or the flight crew?

  5. @omatravel, @everyone—it seems that Allegiant was cutting it waaaaayyyy too close, what if there had been a headwind or other weather diversions? Especially over the hinterlands of rural America. Not such a smart idea. I assume the powers-that-be will look into this and see if it’s a common Allegiant practice to short their fuel load?

  6. Sounds like ATC being dicks to me. Thanks for the unhelpful remark asshole, I need to land!

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