Flying on empty in British airspace

Both The Sun and the Telegraph have reported that at least one aircraft a week runs low on fuel during a flight over Britain. In fact, airlines reported 224 “low-fuel safety incidents” in the past four years (2009 to 2012) with one unnamed airline being responsible for 84 of those incidents or three times more than any other operator.

Reading between the lines, one can probably guess which airline that is (hint: the first part of the airline’s name sort of rhymes with flying!) while another airline has reported 32 incidents and a third airline had 29. Apparently, airlines must inform the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of any low fuel incident with none of the 44 registered UK airlines being completely incident free (The Telegraph also pointed out that these figures do not include any low fuel landings outside of Britain by a certain low-cost carrier registered in Ireland…).

What the CAA regulations say is that any aircraft entering British airspace must have enough fuel to complete their journey, have enough fuel in reserve to reach another airport and enough to circle an airport for 30 minutes. However, carrying any extra fuel will add to the aircraft’s weight and adding to the cost of the flight while delays by flight queues or bad weather can leave fuel tanks dangerously low.

So its a cost verses safety/risk trade off with many airlines flying over Britain apparently focused on cost rather than safety.

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