LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas) – When Allegiant Air Flight 426 left from Las Vegas for Fargo last week, its passengers probably thought they would arrive at an airport that was open, reports the Fargo-Moorehead Forum.
But on Thursday, Fargo’s Hector International Airport had been temporarily closed so the Navy’s Blue Angels could practice for an upcoming air show.
Such closures are not unusual, and the FAA makes sure airlines are notified well in advance. But someone apparently forgot to tell this pilot.
If the flight had left on time, there would not have been any problem, but a delay arriving in Las Vegas meant 426 was an hour behind schedule last Thursday.
A recording of the conversation between the pilot and airport tower was posted to the popular aviation website LiveATC.net.
“We’re down circling Fargo,” the pilot is says in the recording. “We don’t have enough fuel to go anywhere else, and our guys are trying to get in touch with the tower manager right now to try to coordinate our landing.”
“There will be a window opening in about 20 minutes for landing,” the air traffic control tower operator responded.
“Yeah, I don’t have 20 minutes,” the Allegiant pilot said.
The tower then suggest the pilot land at an alternate airport, 70 miles north in Grand Forks.
“Listen, we’re on Bingo fuel here in about probably three to four minutes and then I’ve got to come in and land,” the pilot said.
“Bingo fuel” is aviation lingo for the minimum amount of fuel required for a safe landing.
The tower told the pilot he’d have to declare an emergency in order to coordinate a landing.
“I’m going to give them another three minutes so we can assess,” the pilot said.
“Your company should have been aware of this for a number of months,” the operator told the pilot.
The two-minute conversation ended after the pilot’s reply: “We’ll follow up on that.”
The airliner landed shortly after 1 p.m. local time.
The FAA requires all aircraft to carry a 45 minute fuel reserve.
John Cox is a former U.S. Airways pilot and a former safety official at the Air Line Pilots Association,
He tells the Tampa Bay Times the airline and the pilot are both responsible for knowing whether an airliner’s destination is open or closed.
“The pilot’s going to get to answer some interesting questions from the FAA,” Cox said.
Allegiant Air had little to say about the incident.
“At this time, we are coordinating with the FAA and the airport to investigate all channels of communication regarding the flight and the circumstances leading to the declaration of emergency,” the airline said in a written statement.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)