After a missed approach, the fuel condition of a Virgin-operated Boeing 737-800 with 91 aboard forced an emergency landing at a fog-shrouded alternate airport in Australia on June 18 that left the jet with 15 minutes of fuel remaining when it stopped, the ATSB said. According to the ATSB’s preliminary incident report, released Wednesday, the Virgin flight had planned to arrive at Adelaide with 5500 pounds of fuel onboard but weather there diverted it to Mildura. On first approach at the alternate, the first officer reported forward visibility to be “virtually non-existent” due to dense fog. According to the report, “They were required to land from the next approach regardless of conditions.”
At 600 feet on the second approach, the first officer made the brace announcement and as he looked mostly out of the side window for reference, the captain “flew the aircraft into the ground.” Once down, the pilots could not determine the runway remaining but safely stopped the airplane. According to the ATSB, the flight’s total fuel after shutdown was 1179 pounds. The fuel condition was affected by several factors, including a decision to allow another jet to land ahead of the Virgin flight. A Qantas 737 with more than 145 aboard also diverted to Mildura. Radio communications led the crew of the Virgin jet to believe the Qantas aircraft had less fuel and the Virgin crew yielded. The Qantas jet landed with 4,629 pounds aboard, the ATSB said.