United SFO-SYD flight takes 30 hours to complete

Saw this on GMA this morning:

Agreed on the string of errors, but let's see:

Already 19 hours in just flight time alone (per the story I watched)

Have to divert due SYD's runways being contaminated (seems like a quick fix, but I'm sure fuel was an issue at this point?).

No customs at Canberra: Well, what can you do? It's the same story if an Int'l arrival diverts here in the US.

Pilot times out: Oops. No one other crews in SYD that could take over? Just a thought. Also, for those that drive, how would a relief crew play in here w/r/t hard rest?
 
Another question (since I have no idea what the answer is)...Don't all those long hauls carry at least two complete cockpit crews?  Is the time out strictly based on hours on duty?  No "hours behind the wheel" issues involved?
 
n with two full cockpit crews, there are limits on how long the crews can be on duty.

There was a lengthy effort several years ago by US airlines working with the FAA to define rules for flights above 16 hours. At the time, there were very few operated by US airlines.

Now, there are several. We have a DL pilot on this forum who regularly flies flights that fall under that category. I don't know if any AA pilots that fly AA's LAX-HKG participate in this forum but they would also have that requirement. UA's longest flights are actually from EWR.

I don't know the hard limit for UA but I doubt if it was more than 18 hours after departure from SFO and probably less. A diversion after a flight that long is very likely going to result in a crew time out issue until it was a simple fuel and go or medical diversion. Since this was more complicated, it is not surprising the crew timed out.

The real question is why UA diverted to an airport where there was not customs and immigration.

and why Australia did so little to help out given this was an airport related issue.
 
WorldTraveler said:
Now, there are several. We have a DL pilot on this forum who regularly flies flights that fall under that category.
...And a few AA pilots that fly long haul as well...

Hoping they weigh in.

As for Canberra, my guess is nowhere near enough gas to make it to Melbourne...
 
And, Brisbane is even further away.  Interesting that the capital city of Australia has no International flights.  (I'm making that assumption based on the information that there is no C&I at Canberra airport.)
 
Kev3188 said:
...And a few AA pilots that fly long haul as well...

Hoping they weigh in.

As for Canberra, my guess is nowhere near enough gas to make it to Melbourne...
 I do too. I just don't happen to know who flies longhaul for any other airline on this board.
 
jimntx said:
And, Brisbane is even further away.  Interesting that the capital city of Australia has no International flights.  (I'm making that assumption based on the information that there is no C&I at Canberra airport.)
and the question is still why UA provided a divert point without confirming the availability of customs and immigrations and building a flight plan that includes enough fuel to get to an int'l divert city.

it is worth noting that other carriers that operate rom the US to Australia use aircraft that have more range than UA's 772ERs. Some have noted that UA's 772ERs do not have the range due to engine limitations that limit take off weight.

diversion planning has to consider the support necessary for the type of flight being operated.

I'd also like to know if UA can be fined for tarmac delays that occurred on this flight outside of the US.
 
I hate to beat up on the good people of Australia, but how difficult would it have been to bus in (or fly in) a group of immigration and customs officers? After all, it is an international airport despite not currently featuring regularly scheduled international flights. What do they do for charter and private international flights?
 
Well, it might be that UAL told them it was not necessary because they were putting together a replacement crew to fly the plane to SYD which they did..eventually.
 
To be fair to UAL on the divert point and the lack of C&I, they may not have had a choice.  There aren't that many "big" airports in Australia and they are not particularly close to each other.  The next big airport north of Sydney would be Brisbane.  That would be the equivalent of diverting from DFW to STL.
 
I'm guessing that they were almost to SYD and getting low on fuel when the diversion became necessary.  What I wonder about is the runway contamination.  I've been to Sydney.  There is more than one runway.  What could have caused all runways to be unavailable?  And, if it was just a matter of too much traffic for the remaining runways with one closed, it seems there would have been more than one diversion.  Were they all domestic flights that didn't need C&I?  If not, why haven't we heard about other diversions?
 
good points, Jim.

If Australia has so few suitable airports with customs, then they should have given priority to int'l flights to land.

and if UA knows that there are few int'l points that can be used for diversions, then they should have procedures and perhaps an agreement with other Australian airports or ground handlers in order to handle diversions.

There are many cases where int'l flights have to divert to non int'l airports. Having the procedures in place in order to provide basic care for passengers is what is necessary. I doubt if this would be much of a story if passengers were allowed to deplane, wait in some type of room where UA provided meals and beverages, phone calls, and chairs or cots.
 
Truth.  And, we should mention that of the 30 hours, they were "only 9 hours late arriving at SYD."  They were scheduled to be on the airplane for 21 hours.  Did you notice how easily I can say "only 9 hours late" getting to Sydney.  That's right up there with "There were only 5 major mudslides in LA yesterday" or "This new fighter jet will cost only $25 million each."  Only is such a useful word.
 
or because other aircraft held and did not divert.

QF 12 (A380) and DL 417 (777LR) both have scheduled arrival times very close to the time that UA's flight from SFO is due to arrive. UA's own flight from LAx is scheduled shortly after and none of them diverted.

could be a matter of timing or an increased amount of fuel that allowed greater hold.

when UA switched their flights from 744s to 777s, it was noted that pmUA's 777s have less range than pmCO's and yet this route operates with pmUA aircraft. This event might be a result of that decision to put the pmUA aircraft on the route.

The 789 might do better and that is what UA uses on its LAX-MEL route.
 
WorldTraveler said:
The real question is why UA diverted to an airport where there was not customs and immigration.
In a perfect world, you divert to an airport with a FIS. In reality, you have to go to the first available place you can safely land.

It sounds like the airport closed when they were already on approach, otherwise they could have probably gone to OOL or BNE with some advance notice.

Once committed to SYD, getting to either MEL or BNE would have required another 500 miles of flying, and I don't know what the reserve requirements are for fuel, but both destinations are over 60 minutes added flying.

CBR was just 150 miles, a little over 20 minutes... The only other airport which might have been suitable for a widebody was NTL (Newcastle), about 90 miles northeast of SYD. It didn't have an FIS, either.


Also... while it's normal for WT to take cheap shots at anyone other than DL's contingency plans are or aren't, keep in mind they've been flying their own metal to Oz since the 1980's. I suspect they've had to deal with diversions to offline cities before.

Had this been a DL flight, I'm sure they would have had extra fuel to make it to BNE or MEL. Or maybe they would have refueled in-flight. They do own a refinery, you know...
 
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