Sydney Airport triggers 'full emergency response' after United Airlines mayday call

| 04.10,18. 02:17 PM |

Sydney Airport triggers 'full emergency response' after United Airlines mayday call

Police activated a "full emergency response" and roads around Sydney Airport were closed after a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles made a mayday call above the Harbour City this morning.

Flight UA839 and the 239 people on board landed safely, despite the pilot reporting a problem just after 6:00am.

In a recording of communications between air traffic control and the plane, about half an hour later, the pilot is heard being asked: "Do you think you have enough fuel to taxi to the gate?"

Authorities said the 787-900 Dreamliner — which was bound for Sydney — was running low on fuel, and the pilot was following procedure.

Airservices Australia said no passengers were at risk during the landing and that the mayday call was triggered automatically because the plane's fuel gauge dropped below a certain level.

A United Airlines spokesman said: "United flight 839 from Los Angeles to Sydney landed safely in Sydney following a mechanical issue. The aircraft taxied to the gate and all customers disembarked normally."

After refuelling, the plane took off bound for San Francisco.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is reviewing the incident.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) spokesman Peter Gibson said the plane had about 40 minutes of fuel remaining.

"At this stage we don't know why they used more fuel than planned," he said.

"There can be many reasons, you can get unexpected head winds, stronger head winds, you need to divert around storm cells, you need to change altitude which can be burn more fuel so there's a number of reasons why you can use more fuel than planned."

Paramedics, fire crews on stand-by

An Airservices Australia spokesperson said instances like this were "not unusual".

"It doesn't mean you have no fuel left, and you have to land right away," she said.

"You still have a lot of fuel left."

Later, air traffic control can be heard telling a Qantas flight from Darwin to change its course as the United Airlines plane prepares to land.

"We've just got a mayday coming in," the Qantas pilot is told.

"Obviously with a little bit of congestion in the traffic and all these turns, you're obviously heading to the north which you're probably not expecting."

NSW Police said major roads around the airport were closed as a precaution just after 6.30am, but reopened shortly afterwards.

On the ground, paramedics and fire crews were on stand-by but in the air, many of the passengers had no idea that anything was wrong.


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