Plane has to dump fuel over Lake MI, return to Detroit airport

In this Thursday, May 15, 2014, file photo, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-232 lands at the Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

DETROIT (AP/WOOD) — A Delta Air Lines spokesman says a flight on its way to Seoul, South Korea, had to dump fuel and return to Detroit Metropolitan Airport after a cockpit light showed there was possibly an open maintenance panel on the outside of the aircraft.

The Detroit Free Press reports that spokesman Trebor Banstetter said Flight 159 took off from Detroit at 4:48 p.m. Saturday and that the indicator light came on about 30 minutes later.

Banstetter said the aircraft circled Lake Michigan and dumped fuel for about an hour to help ensure a safe landing. He said the plane, which had 375 passengers on board, landed “safely without incident” shortly before 7 p.m.

He added that maintenance staff would look at the plane and the Atlanta-based airline would accommodate passengers.

Capt. Dave Powell, the dean of the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, told 24 Hour News 8 that it’s not unusual for a plane to dump fuel before an early landing. He said airlines don’t like to do it because fuel is expensive, but planes are designed to be lighter when landing than when taking off, so when a problem like this happens, they have to dump fuel to reach to a safe weight.

The plane was at about 28,000 feet when it dumped the fuel. Powell said fuel dropped from that altitude would dissipate before hitting the water.

——

Information from: Detroit Free Press