Pilots with low fuel penalized for no ‘mayday’ call
The pilots of a Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) flight in May that was forced to return to Taipei Songshan Airport after encountering bad weather in Kinmen have been disciplined for not calling “mayday” before the landing despite being low on fuel.
According to FAT, the pilots in fact made the right decision to return back to Songshan Airport but the sudden change of the wind direction led the plane to a 15-minute deviation and extra waste of fuel.
FAT gives the pilots a demerit on record and will boost the training of fuel using to its pilots.
The company added that the pilots did not issue a call for help because their plane had been given priority to land and was in fact preparing to make a landing.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) will hold a meeting to determine how to discipline the pilots, who were grounded after the incident pending action by the aviation regulator.
“There aren’t many pilots who are so gutsy. It was really a mistake that should not be made,” Lin Jiunn-liang, director of the CAA’s Flight Standards Division, said on Tuesday.
Lin said it was extremely rare for pilots not to call “mayday” when running so low on fuel.
Far Eastern Air flight FE061 took off from the Taipei airport on May 30 at 9:54 a.m. for Kinmen, located just off mainland China’s southeastern coast.
On the way, it circled over the Penghu Islands for nearly 30 minutes at the instruction of air traffic controllers at Kinmen Airport because of bad weather there, and then had to abort an attempted landing in Kinmen because of poor visibility.
The pilots decided to return to Songshan Airport and landed there without incident.
But the aircraft was checked afterwards, and Far Eastern’s ground crew found only 2,000 pounds of fuel left, far less than the 3,700-pound safety reserve required.
The amount of fuel left in the aircraft’s tank was enough for only another 20 minutes of flight and would not have been enough to allow it to pull out of the landing at Songshan Airport, the CAA said.