A commercial jet reportedly dumped fuel over Jeannette, Pennsylvania, Saturday while making an emergency return to Pittsburgh International Airport.
In a Facebook post, the City of Jeannette Fire Department told residents there might be “a slight kerosene type odor in various sections of the city currently.”
However, the department added that the jet was at a high enough elevation to avoid any major problems, “but there will be an odor in the area”:
There may be a slight kerosene type odor in various sections of the city currently. We were advised that a commercial…
Even though it may sound alarming, a fuel dump, also known as a fuel jettison, is considered a safe procedure, according to HowStuffWorks.com.
Airlines have found that fuel dumping is cheaper than not dumping in certain situations. “But it’s not something pilots do on a routine basis,” the website read:
During takeoff for a long flight, a large commercial plane can be carrying tens of thousands of gallons of fuel, which (at about 6.7 pounds per gallon) can translate to hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel [source: Conte]. But, during the long flight, the plane will of course use and burn off the fuel, shedding those pounds along the way. The manufacturers consider this in their design of an aircraft, so by the time a plane reaches its destination, it’ll be light enough to land safely.
“Sometimes, however, in an emergency situation, a plane might be forced to land earlier than expected. And that’s when fuel dumping comes in,” the site continued.
In the rare instances when a fuel dump is necessary, air traffic controllers advise the pilots on the closest dumping area, where there are few people, according to USA Today.
“And pilots are trained to climb to a higher altitude, which allows the atomized fuel to evaporate before it reaches the ground,” the article read.
Following the recent dumping incident over Jeannette, Facebook users described the smell, and one person said he saw the jet.
“Saw the plane fly over fairly low, and smelled the fuel for about 20 minutes or so in Manor this morning,” user Daniel Obremski Sr. commented.
“I live in the area and people were posting on the community pages and making calls about a gas type oder [sic] early this morning. Scared a fair amount of people thinking there was a gas line leak,” user Rebecca Momyer said.