Fuel mayday at Sydney Airport


A United Airlines Boeing 787 carrying 180 passengers and 14 crew has landed safely at Sydney Airport after declaring a mayday.

The plane was low on fuel and the pilot issued the mayday alert, so it would be given priority to land. The call prompted a full emergency response at the airport with all major surrounding roads closed as a precaution.

United Airlines said in a statement that flight 839 had landed safely at Sydney International Airport following a mechanical issue. ‘The aircraft taxied to the gate and all customers disembarked normally,’ Madhu Unnikrishnan, a spokesman for United Airlines said.

Low fuel reserves trigger an automatic emergency warning, an Airservices Australia spokeswoman said, but the plane had more than enough fuel remaining to land safely.

Flight Safety Australia looked at the topic of Mayday Fuel in August. From 8 November this year, the fixed fuel reserve for small piston aeroplanes will change from a recommended 45 minutes to a required 30 minutes (45 minutes at night), plus any specified variable reserve. Pilots who expect to be landing with less than their fixed reserve will be required to broadcast ‘Mayday Fuel’, to alert air traffic control and other traffic that they require priority to land as quickly as possible.


  1. So who’s telling lies here? Was it a low fuel expectation on arrival or a mechanical issue? It’s pathetic!

  2. after 12-15 hours in the air of course they could be low on fuel you fool, Of course meteorology people get it wrong and the head winds are stronger than forecast, just like New South Wales was going to be near floods today and the poor farmers expecting it and there’s nothing eventuated, it’s a wonder more aeroplanes don’t ditch in the ocean

  3. If the pilots got the low fuel alarm, weather it was an electronic or mechanical problem or not he made the right decision. the alternative outcome could have been almost 200 lives lost. Its hard to imagine an airline calling mayday fuel to save money on fuel by jumping the cue. They wouldn’t be able to do that too often without raising suspicion.

  4. It would be interesting to survey the respondents above to ascertain if they are pilots ! All pilots understand fuel management concepts and 99% of us will adhere to strict planning and ensure we get to our destinations with adequate fuel left in reserve or better.

    Perhaps the other 1% of pilots do not adhere to strict planning and perhaps some of these pilots work for United, although I doubt it. If forecast headwinds were worse than forecast then the PIC has the option to seek PIREPS from other pilots on a similar route and request flight levels above or below the winds.

  5. Hi Paul Scotchford. Well I for one do have an Unrestricted Private Pilots Licence with about 3500 hours on it and have held it since 1976, so in your opinion do I qualify to make a comment on aviation matters?

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