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Qantas pilots call ‘mayday’ after delays drained fuel

written by Hannah Dowling | July 23, 2022

Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-VZA, captured by Victor Pody

The flight crew aboard a Qantas flight from Brisbane to Perth were forced to make a mayday call on Monday due to reduced fuel loads following landing delays.

According to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, flight QF933 was placed into a holding pattern above Perth Airport after completing its nearly six-hour journey, alongside four other planes that were attempting to land ahead of them due to delays on the ground at the airport.

Fuel reserves are highly regulated to ensure that aircraft don’t run out in case of delays, however, after nearly 20 minutes in the holding pattern above the airport, the Boeing 737 was at risk of landing on an illegally low amount of fuel.

In order to gain priority over the four planes in line to land ahead of them, the pilots of QF933 were informed they would have to call a rare “fuel mayday” emergency.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed that it was aware of the incident, and said that the aircraft landed safely with fuel reserves “intact”.


A final report into the incident will be completed once the ATSB finalises its investigation.

Qantas chief pilot Dick Tobiano agreed and stated that QF933 landed with 40 minutes worth of fuel left in the tank, “which is well above the minimum requirements”.

He confirmed that air traffic controllers had instructed the aircrew to remain in the holding pattern for longer than the airline had anticipated, which justified the decision to make the mayday call for landing.

It comes after Australia’s airlines recorded their worst-ever month for flight delays and cancellations in June, surpassing the previous record-low result set just two months earlier during the Easter holidays in April.

The severe disruption was seen throughout the month as the industry continued to battle post-pandemic staff shortages. June’s issues were further fuelled by a mid-year school holiday travel surge and severe weather events, including flash flooding throughout NSW.

According to new data released by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), just 63 per cent of all flights arrived on time in June, while 61.9 per cent departed on schedule.

Meanwhile, a total of 5.8 per cent of all flights were cancelled over the month, nearly three times more than the long-term cancellation average.

BITRE said these figures mark “the worst” the industry has seen since records began in November 2003. It comes just months after this record was previously set in April, as the airlines battled staff shortages amid the Easter and ANZAC Day long weekends.

Notably, June’s record-high rates of delays and cancellations come despite scheduling slightly fewer flights in June compared to April.

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Comment (1)

  • I would loved to be present at the inquiry in regard the Fuel / Mayday call, not a decision I would want to make.

    It’s been very bad season with delays for Airlines in and around Australia.

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