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EVA Dumping Fuel Over Lake Michigan-8/3/12  
User currently offlineROSWELL41 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 779 posts, RR: 1
Posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 11889 times:

I received a report from another pilot friend of mine flying into ORD yesterday 8/3/12, that EVA Air was asking and proceeded to dump fuel over Lake Michigan to get down to landing weight. This wouldn't be a big deal except, the other pilot told me that EVA specifically stated that this was not an emergency or distress situation and that the aircraft just arrived with too much fuel and was overweight for landing. We can speculate as to why they were overweight some other time. I fly an A320 with no capability to dump fuel. My question is, is this standard practice for a B747 in a non emergency situation? Is there an associated fine from the EPA? Why not just hold and burn the fuel rather than dump it? How much Jet-A would reach the water if dumped from an intermediate altitude (below FL180)? I am concerned because Lake Michigan is a major source of drinking water for millions of people and doing this in a non-emergency seems questionable. Again, this report was given to me second hand and am interested if anyone on here knows anything about this.

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinepeterinlisbon From Portugal, joined Jan 2006, 507 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 11755 times:

As far as I know when fuel is dumped at that altitude it just evaporates into the air like water vapour and so it would never reach the water. If a 747 has enough fuel for a trans-pacific flight (perhaps 200 tons or so) and then, for whatever reason (probably some sort of technical fault) it has to return to the airport, then it would be well over the maximum landing weight and would have to dump fuel. If it landed at with that much weight (about 400 tons) and the landing is a bit too hard then it could break the landing gear or cause structural damage, which would be both dangerous and expensive to fix. That's probably what happened - a technical fault not serious enough to be considered an emergency, but enough to make it necessary to turn back rather than continue across the pacific ocean (e.g. weather radar not working, faulty radio etc).

User currently offlinechrisnh From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 4110 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 11618 times:

I would imagine that this time of year flights into O'Hare have to pack enough fuel for holding or diverting (Thunderstorms). Leaving 13 hours before the weather even materializes, the crew doesn't have as accurate a sense of Chicago weather as a plane leaving from, say, Pittsburgh does. They have to fill it for the worst possible scenario, and if it's clear & blue into Chicago, this might be what you end up with...especially on flights from the far east which take off some 13 hours earlier and often have tail winds to push them along.

User currently offlinetrex8 From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 4763 posts, RR: 14
Reply 3, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 11519 times:
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I once lived near MSP and a NW jet had to dump fuel- forget the reason why - but NW ended up paying to clean a lot of peoples cars in the area which got hit with the fuel. Don't know how low they were flying but if you are low enough its enough of a hazmat issue. Also even if it mostly evaporates if dumped at high altitude we spend a lot of effort stopping things like gas fumes coming off the nozzle at gas pumps, the reason why many US metro areas have those extractor devices on the nozzle of the pumps at gas stations. Car manufacturers have to have certain % of their cars sold in the US meeting Partial Zero Emission standards which actually are mostly to do with ensuring gas vapor does not leak from the tank - the exhaust out of my subarus tailpipe is supposed to be cleaner than downtown LA air! They do all this and some 747 dumps tons of fuel into the air with no consequences??? Of course its possible a million gas pumps leaking x gms of gasoline a day is more harmful than a few tons jet fuel in the atmosphere.

User currently offlinejcwr56 From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 490 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 11439 times:

Guys you have no idea how large and deep Lake Michigan really is. If Chicago sewers get flooded with rain water and such, there have been times raw sewage goes into it and that's what I'm mor concerned with. Also leakage from the areas near Gary, IN into the Lake.

So while this seems like an issue, it really isn't.


User currently offlinetrex8 From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 4763 posts, RR: 14
Reply 5, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 11356 times:
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Quoting jcwr56 (Reply 4):
Guys you have no idea how large and deep Lake Michigan really is. If Chicago sewers get flooded with rain water and such, there have been times raw sewage goes into it and that's what I'm mor concerned with. Also leakage from the areas near Gary, IN into the Lake.

So while this seems like an issue, it really isn't.

Lake Michigan has @20% of all the worlds fresh water so yes lots of things will get diluted. But if those refineries near E Chicago dumped a ton or two of petrochemicals in the lake (beyond whatever they are already allowed by the EPA) you don't think they will be in deep trouble??

E Coli can be killed by boiling water. Just don't open your mouth and drink any of that lake water when you swim at North Ave after a storm!!


User currently offlinegigneil From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 16347 posts, RR: 85
Reply 6, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 11322 times:

Dumping any chemical into the atmosphere or into Lake Michigan is an issue.

How severe of one is determined purely by your morals, or lack thereof.

My morality includes air flight. Dumping perfectly good fuel because you planned wrong, not so much.

I'm not sure the details of this situation - it seems unlikely to me that they could have flown from Taipei and been above MLW.

NS


User currently offlinetrex8 From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 4763 posts, RR: 14
Reply 7, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 11218 times:
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Quoting gigneil (Reply 6):
I'm not sure the details of this situation - it seems unlikely to me that they could have flown from Taipei and been above MLW.

All BR flights to ORD are via ANC.


User currently offlinespqr From Canada, joined Jun 2011, 101 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 10703 times:

Quoting trex8 (Reply 7):
All BR flights to ORD are via ANC

Even with a top-up at ANC, thats still a 5 hour flight to ORD, that should be long enough to burn fuel to get below MLW.

I wonder if there wasn't another issue such as perhaps a reverser inop, or some other fault affecting landing distance that wasn't an emergency but made the pilot want to lower the landing weight to give himself some extra margin.


User currently offlineROSWELL41 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 779 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 6583 times:

As a pilot, I would assume to hold and burn the fuel rather than dump it in a non emergency situation. The whole idea of dumping fuel for convenience would seem a wrongful course of action. Thats why I pose the question.

User currently offlinecaetravlr From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 908 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 6324 times:

I'm still curious about the details leading to this situation as well? But being ecologically illiterate, another question comes to mind.

Is dumping fuel more harmful to the environment than the emissions from the jet engines while burning it?

Also (and I believe I know the answer to this), what about the costs of the wear and tear on the engines from the extra time holding to burn off fuel? Is the additional maintenance more expensive than the fuel being dumped?

I'm guessing there could also be logistical issues if the plane spends more time in the air to burn extra fuel instead of just dumping it and getting on the ground. It will be interesting to learn more details about this one.



A woman drove me to drink and I didn't have the decency to thank her. - W.C. Fields
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 11, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 6271 times:

Quoting ROSWELL41 (Thread starter):
My question is, is this standard practice for a B747 in a non emergency situation? Is there an associated fine from the EPA? Why not just hold and burn the fuel rather than dump it?

If you hold and burn, it all goes out the back of the engine anyway. All that H and C is going into the atmosphere one way or another, it's just a matter of whether it does it as COx/H2O/NOx or as CxHy.

Quoting ROSWELL41 (Thread starter):
How much Jet-A would reach the water if dumped from an intermediate altitude (below FL180)?

Essentially none. Above about 10,000' I think it all evaporates.

Quoting trex8 (Reply 3):
They do all this and some 747 dumps tons of fuel into the air with no consequences???

You mean besides the consequence of terrible (though unjustified) PR, late arrival, and essentially dumping money out the back of the aircraft with no hope of recovery?

Quoting gigneil (Reply 6):
My morality includes air flight. Dumping perfectly good fuel because you planned wrong, not so much.

If they'd planned "right" it would have all been burned through the engine, producing more CO/CO2/NOx than dumping ever would. It's a tradeoff. It's not like it was zero emission if not for the dumping.

Tom.


User currently offlineFlyingAY From Finland, joined Jun 2007, 701 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5949 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 11):
Essentially none. Above about 10,000' I think it all evaporates.

And where does the evaporated fuel go? Do you think it stays in the air forever?

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 11):
If they'd planned "right" it would have all been burned through the engine, producing more CO/CO2/NOx than dumping ever would. It's a tradeoff. It's not like it was zero emission if not for the dumping.

Umm, no? If they planned it "right" there would have been no need to dump fuel, but they could have landed straight away. Note that the dumping is in addition to whatever fuel was burned during the flight. Also if they had planned it right the plane had been lighter and the fuel consumption during the flight had been smaller - thus producing less CO/CO2/NOx.

Anyway, I doubt any airline would do something like this on purpose, since they're the ones losing money when dumping fuel.


User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19592 posts, RR: 58
Reply 13, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 5291 times:

I've had a 767 fly right over me dumping fuel and I never even smelled a whiff. It just vanishes into the high-altitude air.

Is it great for the environment? No. But given how rarely it happens, it probably has minimal impact as compared to the emissions from the engines.


User currently offlineBE77 From Canada, joined Nov 2007, 455 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 4398 times:

Quoting FlyingAY (Reply 12):
And where does the evaporated fuel go? Do you think it stays in the air forever?

Yep - that's a really good guess - that's where most of it stays - forever (well, as long as it is still 'fuel').
Fuel is pretty volatile stuff chemically speaking (that's why we use it for things like airliners), and really wants to become CO2 and H2O was fast as it can chemically.
Since it evaporates into a gas form quickly (before hitting the ground if above a few thousand feet), it is all completely available to anything and everything that wants to help it get to a stable chemical state.
So, any sort of suitable biological (bacteria - lots of em just love hydrocarbons, especially in little tiny doses) is going to use it for the energy.
The occasional stray photon or cosmic particle is going to be enough to kick start another reaction with a fuel molecule and an O2 molecule. The chances of any one photon doing so are low, but there are a LOT of them out there (and lots of O2).

Without being an apologist for BP or anything (especially since human factors in the DW Horizon and some of the Enbridge stuff is just as hard to understand as something like keeping a jet stalled for 35,000 feet), there is a LOT of oil and natural gas that naturally put out a lot more oil and gas into the environment than you could imagine - all 100% naturally and with nothing we can do about it. Individually they are very small (nothing like the BP spill which is a point source that overwhelms natural or man made mediation).

So, since Lake Michigan is completely sitting on top of oil, gas, and coal bearing rocks, the natural seeps into the lake are pretty substantial already, and once you get away from point sources, the water is pretty clean - proving the lake has a pretty good self cleaning system for dealing with hydrocarbons, which it should since they have been leaking into it since the lake was actually created (last ice age).

So even if the fuel dump was at 500 feet and most of it hit the surface, you might see a sheen on the water for a day or two at worse (and unlikely given the amount of fuel involved, and the speed of an airliner it would be spread out over a large area). Regardless, the natural processes would do their thing pretty quickly - and in a something like Lake Michigan, the fuel of a 747 is much less than a drop in a bucket. There are much, much bigger things for environmentally concious people like me to be worrying about, and fortunately the Environmentalists (and the EPA) sometimes even agree.



Tower, Affirmitive, gear is down and welded
User currently offlineRVV2011 From Canada, joined May 2011, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 3911 times:

Quoting BE77 (Reply 14):
Since it evaporates into a gas form quickly (before hitting the ground if above a few thousand feet), it is all completely available to anything and everything that wants to help it get to a stable chemical state.

Unless it happens to be raining and there isn't enough time for this to happen.


User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 16, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3366 times:

Quoting FlyingAY (Reply 12):
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 11):
Essentially none. Above about 10,000' I think it all evaporates.

And where does the evaporated fuel go? Do you think it stays in the air forever?

The specific concern was relative to it going into Lake Michigan; functionally none of it will. Most will remain in the atmosphere "forever" in the sense that it will get broken down to smaller chemicals long before it makes it into the groundwater.

Quoting FlyingAY (Reply 12):
Umm, no? If they planned it "right" there would have been no need to dump fuel, but they could have landed straight away.

The whole point of reserves is that you'd don't know what will happen. Mother nature does not know or care about your fuel planning; if she decides to have howling winds while your dispatcher is working your fuel plan and then violate the forecast and give you a nice tailwind for the actual flight there is no way to "plan right" to end up at your destination underweight.

Quoting RVV2011 (Reply 15):
Quoting BE77 (Reply 14):
Since it evaporates into a gas form quickly (before hitting the ground if above a few thousand feet), it is all completely available to anything and everything that wants to help it get to a stable chemical state.

Unless it happens to be raining and there isn't enough time for this to happen.

Even if the air is saturated with water vapour that doesn't mean it's saturated with hydrocarbon; it can still evaporate. Precipitation would bring it down faster, naturally, but it gets atomized pretty finely going out the back of the nozzle. It's a very quick process.

Tom.


User currently offlineBE77 From Canada, joined Nov 2007, 455 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3337 times:

Quoting RVV2011 (Reply 15):
Unless it happens to be raining and there isn't enough time for this to happen.

Even if the rain somehow affected the evaporation rates or washed it down, most rain happens in the bottom 8000 feet of the atmosphere (higher altitudes don't support as much moisture due to temps and thinner air), so the 'above a few thousand feet' covers that most of the time.
The three fuel dumps I've been a pax in were all 'in the clear' (twice over Lake Ontario, which is also on oil and gas bearing strata).

Signifcant rain at higher elevations is usually with lift due to mountainous terrain, or in convective activity.

You'd be having a really bad day if you were desperate enough to be dumping fuel in a thunderstorm, or if inside rain clouds in the mountains.



Tower, Affirmitive, gear is down and welded
User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19592 posts, RR: 58
Reply 18, posted (2 years 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 2636 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 16):
Even if the air is saturated with water vapour that doesn't mean it's saturated with hydrocarbon; it can still evaporate. Precipitation would bring it down faster, naturally, but it gets atomized pretty finely going out the back of the nozzle. It's a very quick process.

Water would be unlikely to trap fuel particles. The fuel is very volatile and even at low temperatures, the absolute lack of any partial pressure of gaseous hydrocarbons in the atmosphere makes evaporation very thermodynamically favorable. Atomization speeds that process to a matter of seconds. Liquid water droplets and drops do not tend to trap hydrocarbon molecules.

So really, it tends to stay out of the water.


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