Aviation safety investigations & reports

Fuel flight planning error involving Airbus A320, VH-VNJ at Sydney Airport, NSW on 3 March 2014

Investigation number:
AO-2014-043
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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What happened

On 3 March 2014, the flight crew of a Tiger Airways Australia Pty Ltd (Tigerair) Airbus A320 were preparing for a scheduled passenger service from Sydney, New South Wales to Perth, Western Australia. The flight crew had earlier completed uneventful sectors from Sydney to the Gold Coast, Queensland, and return. As part of that preparation, the flight crew reviewed the operational flight plan (OFP) for the sector. The OFP was produced by the operator’s Operations Control Centre. That OFP contained significant errors in the aircraft weights, and as a consequence the required fuel upload for the sector was also significantly in error. The aircraft captain chose to re-calculate the required fuel load using resources available on the flight deck. The resultant required fuel load calculated and uplifted by the captain did not include the operator's requirement to carry a '60 minute top-up' additional fuel, resulting in the fuel upload being below that required under the operator's operations manual. The aircraft’s flight computers, however, identified that the aircraft would arrive at its destination with more than the minimum inflight fuel requirements. During the subsequent flight, the flight crew regularly checked the fuel usage and expected arrival fuel at Perth. All company and regulatory inflight fuel requirements for the flight from Sydney to Perth were met, and the aircraft landed with fuel in excess of the required fuel reserves.

What the ATSB found

There were deficiencies within the processes and procedures used by the operator's Operations Control Centre that permitted incorrect plans to be produced and subsequently provided to flight crew. This increased the risk that, in the time pressured environment of pre-flight planning, flight crews could either overlook incorrect data and accept an incorrect flight plan, or err in the calculation of the required fuel upload. Further, the operator provided limited guidance and assistance for flight crews on the processes and procedures for correcting identified fuel planning errors. For the occurrence flight crew, this lack of guidance, as well as the remoteness of resources that could assist, resulted in the decision to determine a correct required fuel load calculation using only those resources available on the flight deck. Due to the short layover between sectors, which was further aggravated by curfew restrictions, this increased the risk of critical fuel planning considerations being overlooked.

Safety message

A correctly calculated flight plan not only provides assurance to both the captain and the operator that all operational factors likely to influence the flight have been considered and accounted for, it also forms an important inflight validation tool to allow crews to monitor and continually assess those decisions made at the pre-flight stage. Where variances are noted, timely alternative plans can be implemented to ensure that aircraft arrive at either the destination or an alternate aerodrome with required fuel reserves preserved.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 1.06MB]
 
 
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 152KB]
 

The occurrence

Safety analysis

Findings

Sources and submissions

General details
Date: 03 March 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1636 AEDT   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Sydney Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Aircraft Separation  
Release date: 13 November 2017   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Incident  
  Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A320  
Aircraft registration VH-VNJ  
Serial number 2982  
Operator Tiger Airways  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sydney, NSW  
Destination Perth, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018