How pilots deal with fuel leaks

This time in 2001, an Air Transat A330 pushed back from the gate in Toronto for a routine flight to Lisbon. Just a few hours later, it would run out of fuel mid-Atlantic and be forced to glide 75 miles and land at Lajes in the Azores. All onboard evacuated the aircraft safely.

During the cruise, the crew had noticed an imbalance between the wing fuel tanks and took action to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, this would end up causing both tanks to run dry, resulting in both engines shutting down.

So how did a modern airliner manage to get into such a frightening situation and how do we as pilots stop this from happening?

Air Transat flight 236

Just before 9 p.m. Toronto time, the two-year-old A330 took off from Toronto with 293 passengers and 13 crew. In the fuels tanks was 46.9 tons of fuel, more than enough to complete the transatlantic flight safely.

Around four hours into the flight, whilst cruising at 39,000 feet, unbeknownst to the crew, a fuel leak began in the pipe taking fuel from the right-hand wing tank to the right-hand engine.

A few minutes later, the crew noticed low oil temperature and high oil pressure indications in the right hand (number two) engine. At this stage, there was no indication that these were the result of a fuel leak so the crew reported these as spurious to the maintenance control centre who asked the crew to monitor the situation.

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