In what became a record for failed attempts at landing, a Jet Airways flight last year landed on its seventh attempt after six landing attempts failed due to bad weather and low visibility. A Boeing 737 aircraft that was on its way from Doha to Kochi in Kerala had to divert to Thiruvananthapuram after three failed attempts where it landed after a further four attempts. The biggest shocker is that the plane had only 349 kg fuel left which averages around 100 km of flight time in cruise mode.
The plane had over 4,844 kg fuel when it first approached Kochi but when it chose to divert to Thiruvananthapuram, the nearest international airport, it was on a fuel reserve of 2,644 kg. After the fuel dropped to shockingly low levels, the crew opted to take sharp banking maneuvers at very low altitudes going against all sorts of terrain alarms with a blind shot at finding the runway.
The incident was brought out in an investigation report of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The incident took place on August 17 last year and the report quotes conversations held between the flight commander and the first officer in the cockpit while approaching Kochi airport. When the latter asked the commander whether he knew where he’s headed, the reply was “just going blindly”.
The report stated that the sharp manoeuvres adopted by the pilots had activated the enhanced ground proximity warning systems but the flight commanders ignored the terrain warning avoiding the warnings at dangerously low altitudes. The report added that the pilots moved ahead blindly trying to find the runway.
The airline insists that it had taken all adequate measures to ensure the plane had adequate fuel for worst case scenarios and that it had conducted internal investigations without prejudice to any conducted by government agencies.
The airline also said that it had demoted the captain of the plagued flight to the rank of co-pilot. The average fuel burn in cruise conditions for a Boeing 737 aircraft is around 3.5 km/kg which increases significantly at low altitudes and during take-off or repeated landing attempts. The amount of fuel left in the aircraft when it finally landed was, even in ideal conditions, only enough for around 100 km or a maximum 15-20 minutes of flight time.