Long Haul Fuel Diversions

Old man winter is here in the northern hemisphere and with winter comes stronger winds out of the west that aircraft must fly into on certain routes.  For those of you flying the opposite direction, west to east, you’re probably getting some pretty good flight times.

Taking the Boeing 757-200 trans-Atlantic

One winter problem is strong headwinds and these will cause fuel diversions for some flights, especially with aircraft like the Boeing 757-200 when flown on longer trans-Atlantic routes.

United-Continental Airlines operates a significant number of trans-Atlantic Boeing 757-200’s from their hub in Newark (EWR).  While we’re seeing eastbound flights make good time, a number of westbound flights are having to divert on days when the winds are the worst.  Trans-Atlantic diversion points to fuel and go often use cities like Goose Bay (YYR), Gander (YQX), Halifax (YHZ), Bangor (BGR), and Boston (BOS) when the wind is too strong out of the west to make the trip non-stop.  Some westbound Boeing 757 flights are more apt to stop for refueling such as Continental-United 121 from Barcelona (BCN), Flight 69 from Stockholm-Arlanda (ARN), Flight 75 from Hamburg (HAM), or 153 from Stuttgart Echterdingen (STR).  There’s others, but these are a few samples we are using.

United-Continental is not the only carrier to take the Boeing 757-200 trans-Atlantic and face these problems, American, Delta, and US Airways can join the group, but United-Continental is by far the leader in using the 757-200 for these flights.  The airlines have also taken steps to increase fuel efficiency from adding winglets to not carrying anything on-board unless required.

When flights approach the Newark area and realize the pattern will cause more hold time, gas and go diversions to Stewart Intl (SWF) in New York state are typically used.  This allows the flights to re-fuel and quickly re-enter the pattern for arrival at Newark Liberty International.

When the Boeing 757-200 was originally designed, the intent of the aircraft was not for trans-Atlantic ETOPS flights, but they did have the range and market conditions made the aircraft a good fit.  Most of the year, fuel diversions are not a problem, but they do arise at times during the winter when stronger than normal headwinds require a longer flight.

Here at FlyersPulse, the Boeing 757-200 remains one of our favorite planes – over-engineered and these aircraft take off like rockets.

In the US domestic market, some carriers have faced problems conducting non-stops from the east coast to west on their A320 aircraft because of unusually strong headwinds, and air carriers do have plans in place for when such diversions are necessary for a “gas and go”.

Lagos, Nigeria, to United States Flight Diversions

Flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to the USA fall into another category with higher petrol taxes and even unconfirmed reports of fuel rationing at the airport.   Flights like United-Continental 143 from Lagos (LOS) to Houston Intercontinental (IAH), a Boeing 777-200 service, are encountering strong westerly winds along with reports of fuel rationing at Lagos, requiring fuel diversions.  Delta Air Lines 55, an Airbus A330-200, slated to operate the non-stop Lagos (LOS) to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International (ATL) flight, has been stopping at Accra, Ghana (ACC), to re-fuel before crossing the Atlantic.

Additionally, there have been reports of low jet fuel and rationing on some of the Caribbean islands; when this does happen, a fuel diversion to a nearby airport is often necessary.  This seems to be a hit or miss situation.

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