When lives are on the line at 30,000 feet, captains are forced to make critical decisions. In a recent medical event aboard a China Eastern Airlines flight, one pilot decided to sacrifice 30 tons of fuel over the Pacific Ocean for an emergency landing to save a passenger who experienced trouble breathing over Alaska.
When a flyer experienced difficulty breathing during a China Eastern Airlines flight, the captain decided to sacrifice jet fuel in order to make an emergency landing so that the passenger could get emergency care. Asia One reports the pilot dumped 30 tons of fuel in order to accommodate the aircraft’s safe landing in Alaska.
The trouble began when the passenger, a 60-year-old woman flying aboard China Eastern from Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York on Friday, March 23, 2018, complained to cabin staff of trouble breathing. She was taken from the economy cabin to the business class cabin, so that additional care could be administered.
When her condition did not improve, the captain of the flight was given the option to declare an emergency and land at the nearest airport: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) in Alaska. However, the flight was overweight, meaning the captain would have to find a way to reduce his fuel load before maneuvering the landing.
“The airplane’s weight was 282 tons, far more than the maximum landing weight,” the captain, Gu Jian, explained to Chinese media according to Asia One. “When the sick passenger needed medical attention for safety reasons, the plane had to descend and dump gasoline at the same time.”
To safely land, the captain decided to dump 30 tons of fuel in flight. When the weight load was reduced, Jian and his co-pilots successfully landed at ANC, where the flyer was met by first responders. She was ultimately admitted to a local hospital and allowed to continue her trip the next morning. The original flight was held in Alaska for six hours, before it was allowed to continue to JFK.
Despite the six-hour delay incurred because of the incident, passengers didn’t mind the captain’s actions. A passenger told another media source: “saving lives should be a priority.”