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Home > Air Crash > How many would survive if the Airbus A330 had ditched?
How many would survive if the Airbus A330 had ditched?
Aviation - Air Crash
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 14:17

Hi Captain Lim, 

I read several articles about the Air Transat 236 incident on August 24th, 2001.  One of those articles stated that when the Airbus A330 made an emergency landing in the Azores, the aircraft spilled fuel onto the runway upon landing.    

Now I understand that the plane ran out of fuel midway over the Atlantic Ocean and almost had to ditch at sea.  But I wonder how the plane could spill fuel onto the runway even after it had run out of fuel in flight due to a fuel leak.    

Also, if the airplane had to ditch in the sea, how many people would have survived and why had the manufacturing company of this plane put the wrong part on one of the engines and risked the lives of 306 passengers on board?    

If you have any answers, I would very much like to hear from you at your earliest convenience. 



Flying on Empty


Hi Evans,  

I have not heard of any report that fuel was being spilt onto the runway upon the emergency landing. It literally ran out of fuel and the Airbus A330 was gliding with both the engines dead.   

If the plane had ditched into the sea, how many would survive would depend on the skill of the pilot. As it happened, Capt Robert Piche was able to glide the Airbus A330 safely onto the runway at Lajes airfield on the Terceira Island. It approached at a very high speed, did a hard touchdown and burst eight of the plane's ten tires during the landing.  

I believe, had the plane ditched, there would be many survivors if it had glided softly onto the calm sea. However, the story would be different if the plane had suffered structural damage during the impact and the water was rough. You can read more about ditching here.

It is not true that the plane manufacturer had put a wrong part on the engine. What happened was mainly due to the poor maintenance of the airlines. In fact, Air Transat was slapped with the largest fine ($250,000) in Canadian aviation history for the faulty engine maintenance on its Airbus A330 that led to the accident. 

An Air Transat senior company executive reported that a senior maintenance supervisor had told the concerned mechanics to proceed with an engine swap on one of the airline's Airbus A330s, despite a missing part. The engine did not have a hydraulic pump but the mechanics decided to install a pump from another engine model even though Rolls-Royce had recommended against it. 

The mismatched installation of the hydraulic tube and the fuel tube resulted in the tubes coming into contact with each other. This resulted in the fracture of the fuel tube and the fuel leak, the initiating event that led to fuel exhaustion.  

The other contributing factors cited by the investigation board were that the flight crew did not detect that a fuel problem existed until the fuel advisory was displayed and the fuel imbalance was noted.  They did not recognize that a fuel leak situation existed - and carried out the fuel imbalance procedure from memory instead. This resulted in the fuel from the left tanks being fed to the leak in the right engine. 

Although there were a number of other indications that a significant fuel loss was occurring, the crew did not conclude that a fuel leak situation existed and therefore they did not carry out the FUEL LEAK procedure. This was the key factor that led to the fuel exhaustion. 

You can see the full video of the story here. Flying on Empty Tanks



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