Ryanair says planes 'safe' in low-fuel urgent landings

Three Ryanair planes that carried out emergency landings in Spain on the same day last month were "perfectly safe", the president of the Irish low-cost carrier, Michael O'Leary, said Thursday.

Spanish aviation authorities rerouted the three flights to Valencia from Madrid on July 26 because of thunderstorms over the Spanish capital that prevented them from landing there as planned.

The planes were asked to join a queue for landing but after circling over Valencia for a while all three planes contacted air traffic control to request permisson to make an emergency landing because their fuel was running low.

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The airplanes were not in danger but were required to make the mayday calls so they could land with the required amount of leftover fuel, O'Leary said.

"Our aircraft were perfectly safe in each of these incidents," he said, adding that all three planes still had about 30 minutes' worth of fuel left when they asked for permission to land in Valencia.

"All three of those aircraft that properly requested emergency landings in Valencia that evening arrived overhead in Madrid as scheduled with enough fuel for more than one and a half hours hours of flying time, exceeding the medium requirements."

There were 28 similar fuel emergencies at British airports during the past two years, the Ryanair president said.

"It is important that people understand that these fuel emergencies are not unusual in the airlines industry."

"What is unusual is to have three fuel emergencies in one day. Last year we had none," O'Leary added.

The Irish Aviation Authority has opened an investigation into the three emergency landings which should wrap up in "two to three weeks", he said.

"The report will confirm that our pilots in all of these three cases fully complied with our safety requirements, with Boeing safety requirements and with European safey requirements," O'Leary predicted.

Spanish authorities and working with the Irish Aviation Authority in the investigation.

Spain's state security agency has also opened its own probe into the emergency landings following a complaint from the company that manages the country's airports.

O'Leary dismissed a claim by Spain's pilots' union SEPLA that Ryanair pilots were under pressure to load as little fuel as legally possible to keep down flying costs.

"The only pressure put on Ryanair's pilots on every flight on every day is to operate safely. Safety at Ryanair takes priority over costs," he said.

Ryanair will sue Sepla for defamation which was made in a statement issued on August 16 unless the pilots union retracts its claim within one week, O'Leary added.

Dublin-based Ryanair, Europe's largest budget carrier, operates a fleet of nearly 300 Boeing planes. It transported 8.7 million passengers last month, up from 8.1 million during the same month last year.

© 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Aug 23, 2012