Issue Number 3 : July 1992
by Robert Petersen
Sometimes the distinction between comedy and calamity is a very fine one; sometimes whether you view something as amusing or sobering depends on your point of view. Here's one that provides something to think about.
The Captain of an air carrier flight diverted to an alternate airport due to weather and encountered confusion after landing -- with some unusual consequences.
Reading this report evokes the humorous image of a fuel truck racing along behind the taxiing airliner still connected by a length of hose -- the airliner destined to become "the one that got away." But the Captain didn't think it was so funny:
We must give the fueler credit: he didn't panic and run, but disconnected the fuel hose before disaster struck. The Captain subsequently discovered that " ... the fueler was [apparently] employed by a ... firm ... [that] was contracted by my company to help out with the [work] overload from the diversions." (And therefore was likely not completely familiar with the air carrier company procedures -- Editor.)
Why hadn't the fueler contacted the flight crew before fueling? There are a number of possible reasons -- total confusion on the ramp because of the number of aircraft; the fueler did not realize the engine was running; was not aware of special procedures for fueling with passengers on board; assumed the Captain was aware his aircraft would be fueled; rushing to keep up with the task at hand. Regardless of the causes and factors involved, there existed a large opportunity for disaster; fortune dealt kindly with all involved -- this time.
We could say more about the need for proper coordination between the dispatch office and the cockpit, and the need for adequate training of ground personnel, but this narrative speaks eloquently enough by itself.
Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.
-- Will Rogers, 1879-1935
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