Officials say dumped fuel likely evaporated before hitting ground

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An Air France jet dumped 30 tons of fuel southeast of Fairbanks but the discharge probably evaporated before it reached the ground, state and federal officials said.

The incident occurred Nov. 17 when the pilot released the fuel after losing a wheel on takeoff from Fairbanks International Airport. The pilot didn't want a plane full of fuel when returning for an emergency landing, an airport official said at the time.

The fuel left the aircraft in a stream at an elevation of about 12,000 feet, said Walt Sandel, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

''I'd really be surprised if any hits the ground,'' Sandel told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''It's similar to gasoline. It's like having a spill out on the water -- you get some wind across it and it volatilizes quickly.''

Sandel said he has never heard of dumped jet fuel hitting anyone on the ground.

The fuel fell over a designated military operations area 35 miles south of Eielson Air Force Base, said Kevin Haines, air traffic manager at the airport.

A second dump area is located 35 miles north of Eielson.

Haines said the sites are more commonly used by military aircraft, such as fighters, when they encounter weather or other problems.

The areas have no precise boundaries or minimum altitude. Fuel dumps are usually done at 10,000 feet or higher, Haines said.

Air traffic controllers can let other planes fly within 2,000 feet below dumped fuel, Haines said. ''The fuel dissipates quite rapidly.''

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