AA Jet Dumps Fuel, Makes Emergency Landing at DFW

North Texans marvel at potential air disaster

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An American Airlines jet made an emergency landing at DFW International Airport shortly after takeoff Sunday evening.

    Federal investigators are reviewing what led to the emergency landing of an American Airlines Boeing 777 that dumped fuel over North Texas on Sunday night.

    Flight 963 carried a heavy load of fuel as it left Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for Sao Paolo, Brazil, at about 8 p.m. with 246 passengers and 14 crew members.

    American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said a right engine fire-warning indicator appeared in the cockpit shortly after takeoff.

    AA Jet Didn't Catch Fire, or Maybe It Did

    [DFW] AA Jet Didn't Catch Fire, or Maybe It Did
    An American Airlines jet made an emergency landing at DFW International Airport shortly after takeoff Sunday evening.

    Smith said the indication light went out when the pilot powered down that engine. An immediate return to the airport to check the cause of the problem was the safest choice, he said.

    Aviation safety expert and former airline pilot Denny Kelly said the pilot needed to reduce the weight of the plane before making that emergency landing.

    AA Plane Dumps Fuel

    [DFW] AA Plane Dumps Fuel
    An American Airlines jet made an emergency landing at DFW International Airport shortly after takeoff Sunday evening. (Video from Michael Johnston)

    "In this case, he would dump the fuel down, because fuel is the heaviest thing on the airplane that you can get rid of," Kelly said.

    A number of residents witnessed the fuel dump at about 8:20 p.m. Sunday. Some took pictures, including Diamond Johnson in Farmers Branch.

    "I was like, 'Wow, that's not normal.' And it was going northbound away from the airport, so that kind of concerned me," he said.

    Johnson was at a Dairy Queen in Farmers Branch near Interstate 35E when he saw the plane.

    "I was just saying a little prayer because I didn't know where he was going to land. I thought he was going to hit 35," Johnson said.

    The plane landed safely at DFW Airport with emergency crews on alert.

    Airport spokesman David Magana said firefighters on the ground did not notice any fire in the right engine but did apply foam to overheated landing gear brakes.

    Kelly and Smith said the use of engine thrust reversers that typically slow a plane on landing would be unwise because the right engine was not operating, so the brakes had to do all the work during the emergency landing.

    "It's just simply going to get hot," Kelly said. "There's nothing you can do about it."

    "The brakes smoked, and it blew tires," Smith said.

    An FAA spokesman was quoted Monday as saying that DFW Airport firefighters put out an engine fire, but Magana said that information was incorrect.

    Smith and Magana said buses took the passengers to the terminal Sunday night.

    The passengers stayed at several different hotels and left for Brazil Monday on a different plane, Smith said.

    He said the FAA will investigate the entire incident, including the original engine fire indicator.

    Some residents contacted NBC DFW saying they saw fire coming from that engine in flight.

    Kelly said it is possible that whatever problem there was ended when the engine was shut down.

    "If it's hot enough to set off the fire warning, it's hot enough to do damage, so... the crew did exactly what they were supposed to do, and they did a great job, and they should be complimented," Kelly said.

    Some residents contacted NBC DFW claiming to have seen jet fuel on the ground from the passing plane.

    Smith did not rule out the possibility, but Kelly said it is very unlikely that dumped jet fuel would ever reach the ground, especially in such warm weather.

    "I would say that you might -- if you were right directly underneath it -- you could smell it, maybe," Kelly said. "But the chances of it not dissipating and the chances of it doing any damage to your car, or home, is probably zero."