Why Planes Dump Fuel Before Landing

Why Planes Dump Fuel Before Landing


Picture this: you’re nestled cozily in your
window seat on a jet airliner when suddenly, you notice weird white spray coming out the
back of the wing. Is something wrong with the plane? Are you going to crash? No need to panic! At this moment, the pilots are performing
a standard procedure called fuel dumping. But the reason why they get rid of fuel, which
is by no means cheap, is another story. So, it’s not totally uncommon for airliners
to dump fuel while flying; what’s more, pilots do it intentionally. At first, it may sound like a huge waste. See for yourself: a mid-sized Boeing 737-300,
designed for short and medium-range flights, uses about two and a half tons of fuel per
hour of travel. The price of jet fuel is more than $600 per
ton, so that means that while flying such a plane, you spend approximately $1,500 per
flight hour. In other words, when a jet travels from New
York to Los Angeles, which takes four and a half hours, it burns nearly $7,000 worth
of fuel. I would say that’s impressive. So, let’s figure out why pilots literally
throw away a fortune! The truth is that in certain situations, fuel
dumping turns out to be cheaper than the alternative! Most planes must be lighter when they land
than when they take off, like more than 200,000 pounds lighter! The problem with landing is that it puts much
more stress on a plane than take-off, that’s why the less weight a jetliner carries, the
better. If a plane doesn’t use a certain amount of
fuel before landing, it might hit the ground too hard, which can lead to some serious damage. On the other hand, pilots don’t usually have
to worry about too much fuel in the tanks because the problem takes care of itself. During a flight, a commercial plane burns
almost all the fuel, and by the time it arrives at the destination, it’s light enough, and
ready for a safe landing. But from time to time, emergencies occur,
and planes are forced to land way earlier than planned. That’s when fuel dumping comes into play,
and it usually happens right before landing. Let’s say that after take-off, Captain Kirk
discovers that there’s an urgent maintenance problem, or a passenger has a medical emergency. Surely, pilots can burn fuel by flying around
with the flaps or landing gear dropped (it speeds up the fuel-burning process). But obviously, this maneuver won’t save the
day in case of a medical emergency when time is of the utmost importance. That’s when it’s time to eject fuel. Few people know that most fuel is stored in
the wings of an aircraft. That’s why, when a pilot flips a switch in
the cockpit, a sophisticated system of pumps and valves comes into action, and special
nozzles in the wings let out excess fuel. This amazing system can get rid of thousands
of pounds of fuel a minute, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing from your window seat. On the other hand, not all planes have this
complicated system. For example, narrow-bodied planes like the
Boeing 757 or Airbus A320 can’t dump fuel. This ability is more typical for more massive
metal birds that have additional fuel tanks. But then, what alternatives do smaller planes
have? Well, for them, the only way out is to land
overweight. Unfortunately, in this case, damage to the
plane can be severe, and the repair – way costlier than it could be should the aircraft
dump fuel. Besides, under such circumstances, a plane
might be simply unable to stop in time. And if worst comes to the worst, an overweight
landing might lead to a fire and result in a fuel explosion. That’s why, if the plane’s construction allows
it, pilots prefer to eject fuel rather than to risk people’s lives. In fact, fuel dumping isn’t a common procedure
that happens regularly. That’s why air traffic controllers often help
pilots in the process and keep them away from other planes. Ok, this is all well and good, but seriously,
should I open my umbrella if a plane flies over in case it starts raining gasoline? You can relax; there’s nothing to worry about. Most fuel evaporates while still in the air
and never hits the ground. However, it’s more likely to happen on a warm
day, or when a plane ejects fuel high up in the sky – ideally, more than 5,000 feet. It may seem terrible from an environmental
pollution standpoint. But here’s one bitter truth: one way or
another, when planes fly up there, all the fuel ends up in the atmosphere anyway. By the way, every plane must carry more fuel
than is necessary just to cover the distance from point A to point B. Before the departure,
Captain Kirk has to make sure that the plane has enough fuel for all kinds of emergency
situations. Therefore, there must be
– trip fuel, which a plane needs to take off, climb to the cruising altitude, cruise, descend,
and touch down; – fuel needed if a plane will have to land
at another airport; – reserve fuel;
– fuel that can be used in unforeseen situations, for example, strong headwind or arrival delays;
– taxi fuel, which a plane burns on the ground; – and additional fuel for all kinds of emergencies,
such as an engine failure. Wow, that’s a lot. No wonder a plane has to get rid of this load
before having a smooth landing! Here’s a story for you. On December 29, 2014, Virgin Atlantic Flight
VS43, bound for Las Vegas, took off from Gatwick Airport. Shortly after, the pilots realized that the
plane’s right-wing landing gear had gotten stuck and hadn’t retracted. The only way out was to turn back and land
at Gatwick. But the plane was a Boeing 747, also called
a “jumbo jet” – a huge, four-engine machine. The fuel-laden aircraft was prepared for a
long transatlantic flight and was way too heavy to land safely so shortly after the
departure. And don’t forget about the malfunctioning
set of wheels! At first, the pilots brought the plane to
an altitude of 10,000 feet to drop it sharply to dislodge the trapped gear. When that didn’t work, the plane started circling
at a low altitude, burning fuel. The trick is that the closer to the ground,
the more fuel a plane burns. Up high, at cruising altitude, the air is
way thinner, and its resistance is weaker; that’s why aircraft don’t need as much fuel
to keep moving. Anyway, after circling for several hours,
the pilots finally ejected enough kerosene over the territory of southern England to
return to Gatwick. Luckily, even with the failed gear, they managed
to land the plane smoothly, and more than 450 passengers and crew members were safe,
with nothing more than minor injuries. By the way, if you’re still wondering why
on Earth fuel is kept in the wings, here’s the answer! First, it helps to reduce the stress airplane
wings experience during take-off and climb – after all, they have to lift hundreds of
tons up in the air. It puts so much stress on aircraft wing roots
that they can literally bend upward! So, to reduce this stress, the wings get loaded
with fuel, which makes them more rigid and heavier, and reduces the bending. For example, the Airbus A380-800, the largest
passenger plane nowadays, doesn’t have the center tank at all. Instead, each of its wings can hold more than
264,000 pounds of jet fuel. Anyway, one more reason for locating fuel
tanks in the wings is to lighten the aircraft’s fuselage, which reduces the pressure on the
wing roots as well. On top of that, wing fuel tanks keep the center
of gravity of the plane in the desired position. If all the fuel was stored in the nose or
tail of the aircraft, the center of gravity would change along with the fuel consumption,
and it would mess with the plane’s stability. So there. Hey, Have you ever seen a plane dumping fuel? Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go dumping YOUR fuel
just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
check out. All you have to do is pick the left or right
video, click on it, and enjoy! Remember: Stay on the Bright Side of life!

100 thoughts on “Why Planes Dump Fuel Before Landing

  1. I hate emergency landing as soon as it takes off because of a silly mistake of crew members..
    Firsr they put the lives of passenger in danger and second the main thing wastage of fuels

  2. 2 : 36 there are wings in every window and a bit later the plane is flying above the clouds but the ground as a Bleu sky.

  3. You give the impression that the inability for smaller jets to dump fuel presents an inherent danger but they simply don't need to.

    In simple terms their max takeoff and landing weights are close enough that even an overweight landing in an emergency can be tolerated safely although there will be a thorough inspection afterwards.

    Even larger aircraft like the A330 or 767 may or may not have fuel dumping capabilities depending on options

  4. Fuel dumping is definitely not a routine thing, as a pilot in training I can tell you with confidence that fuel dumping is usually only for emergency situations, and pilots calculate their fuel before flight, and how much they’ll need.

  5. My grandparents live a few miles from Tampa airport and for 25 years every cat and dog they ever owned (30+, she was the crazy Florida cat lady) they all died prematurely with cancer. If you live near an airport dont own pets.

  6. I hope you know that all planes can land at maximum weight (the same as their take off weight), however if they exceed the max landing weight then the aircraft will have to be grounded for some time to allow engineers to check the whole thing out. This downtime is why airlines prefer to dump fuel. Some airlines prioritise passenger safety and disregard this expensive downtime, therefore in an emergency they tell their pilots to land ASAP regardless of fuel load. Of course what I've said doesn't apply if there's a risk of fire upon landing.

  7. For more than40 years all cars have had carbon canisters so that not even FUMES escape the vehicle. If that is faulty I could be fined and the car put off the road.
    Your comment about fuel all going into the air is not correct. BURNED fuel is CO2 . Unburned fuel is hydrocarbons. This is a serious breach of environmental standards.
    If anyone on the ground released a few tonnes of fuel, even through carelessness, they would be facing a prison sentence. Hmmm double standard??

  8. The plane fly Around the area of the airport that’s for small planes to get rid of you they won’t put the flaps on where they go down because that would break them so they would fly around get rid of that fuel and land they wouldn’t land over a wait

  9. Hello, 😂😂😂😂😂😂, nope i didn't, but in my military service i saw couple of people dumping fuel on an old helicopter, and they shot at it, 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 oh good times.

  10. I believe it was Northwest airlines that due to contracts they used to fly out of their hub in Minnesota and would drop excess fuel in Memphis Tn using their planes as tankers to fill their fueling tanks in memphis

  11. I live near airport so I place a rain catch on the roof and use the fuel collected from the airplane dumping to fill my car
    Even my boat and the neighbor airplane.
    That way we also contributed to keep the earth clean

  12. 🤔 every action has a reaction. 🔥🌲🔥🌳🌳🔥🐅🔥🌲🌲🐁🔥🐇🐂🌲🔥🐒🌊🐟🐢🌊🐺🐻🔥🦆🦅🦊🔥🦍🔥🔥🌳🔥🌲🌲🔥🌲

  13. Obvious answer. So we can spend even more on overpriced tickets just so they can waste MORE fuel and repeat the cycle.

  14. This is ridiculously misleading. I was an aviator in the US Air Force for 17 years and we only dumped fuel in emergencies and always above 5000 ft for a controlled emergency. In England they make you fly out over the ocean if possible. Flight crew plan for fuel burn and divert fuel (based on enroute weather and destination weather). They do not dump fuel every flight and only in emergencies.

  15. It is totally uncommon for aircraft to dump fuel while in flight. The EPA made it illegal unless under emergency circumstances

  16. Alright, so when an airplane has to get rid of the fuel… the fastest way is the dump it is going closer to the ground creating a chance for some of the fuel to land on the environment. So this is the reason why forest fires exist.

  17. Yep… was crew on a military flight. Full load of fuel. Developed a problem on the climb out.

    Only option was to dump fuel down to a safe landing weight. We still landed slightly overweight and the aircraft was immediately taken out of service for inspection.

    As an aside, most airports will have a pattern/area for aircraft to hold/orbit if they have to dump fuel.

  18. Why did he say don’t worry about gasoline being dumped on your head. It should say don’t worry about KEROSENE being dumped on your head.

  19. So this is why I’ll be ridding my horse and it just start raining on me and it smells like gas now I know next time I’ll bring a funnel and can so I can get gas for free

  20. Yeah but I mean dumping fuel still means MORE chemicals in the atmosphere. You can change what 100% means. Obviously they aren't dumping out any emergency fuel if they do so well before landing. All the calculations involved in flying and baggage fees and seat sizing but not fuel economy? When that's exactly what they site as reason for price hikes. Seems iffy.

  21. Yeah, now a lot of people will think they see it everyday…..but this is geo-engineering. All types of patterns in the sky followed by the trails expanding!!!

  22. They drop fuel because they need to land the plane but fuel is heavy so they need to drop it to make it lighter to land. Easy

  23. Tne reason smaller aircraft don't have the ability to fuel dump is because the maxiumum takeoff is below the maximumlanding weight. This video is only half correct. There was other stuff in the video that isn't true but it takes to long to type on a tablet

  24. Wait..
    What of the fuel gets dropped on humans?
    AND THIS IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
    IT WILL POLUTE THE OCEAN
    THIS IS BAD
    Nvm I just saw after

  25. Well I see an 777 then it dumped fuel from the water but the plane is at the landing altitude then 30 sec I see fish dies and I don't remember who filmed it and put it on you tube

  26. Why not tell the people, roughly, how much fuel is dumped annually into Earth's atmosphere? It's not a negligible amount to be so blythly unconcerned about. What impact does it have on our environment? What about health concerns? Why not simply manufacture heavy duty landing gear? You've had one hundred years since the first flight in Kitty Hawk to do so. This is not good at all.

  27. Wait, what happens if right after it finishes dumping the fuel, but suddenly air traffic control says 2 other planes are landing, and you can't land under any circumstances for 30 minutes. And that is the only airport for kilometers.

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