United flight lands safely after pilot issues mayday alert due to limited fuel

An Australian bound United Airlines flight has landed safely at Sydney Airport after the pilot made a mayday call. The 787-9 aircraft operating UA839 from Los Angeles to Sydney was put into a holding pattern east of Sydney Airport due to heavy traffic and inclement weather at about 6 am this morning local time.

Major roads around the airport were closed as a precaution with the aircraft being given top priority to get on the ground safely. What caused the incident is a simple lack of fuel, the aircraft had below a certain amount of fuel left in its tank, it, therefore, triggers an emergency warning. According to Australia’s government-owned aviation authority, the plane had about “40 minutes of fuel left” when they touched down with the agency also confirming that they had used more fuel than planned on their 14-hour hop across the Pacific. The aircraft landed safely 9 minutes before scheduled their arrival at 6:36 am with many passengers having no idea that the incident happened, no one of the 194 people on board were injured.

Sydney Airport had local fire and NSW Ambulance crews awaiting the landing as a precautionary measure while also closing major roads around the airport as well as putting other aircraft into holding loops. Sydney Airport declared this incident as “not unusual” and the 787 took off bound for San Fransisco 3 and a half hours later running only half an hour late.

This isn’t the first time United has had low fuel issues on Australian bound flight. In 2014 a United flight also heading to Sydney was found to have only enough fuel to divert to Canberra, a mere 250km away. Canberra has international flights however customs officers weren’t rostered on at the time and United elected not to pay up for officers to come in and process their passengers, instead leaving the aircraft on the tarmac and their passengers on the plane without food, water or toilets for 4 hours before a 3 hour stint off the plane in which passengers were given lunch from food trucks and portable toilet facilities passengers who described themselves as “sunburnt” were flown back to Sydney.

United Airlines 787-9, the aircraft involved in the mayday inncident photo credit


Wow, this year is not a good one for aviation, all these emergency landings and accidents, luckily this one ended out ok.

Legal requirement to issue a Mayday if you ‘believe’ you are going to be landing below minimum reserve fuel.

Not an issue. Probably had some re-routes, delays (especially Australia!) or weather.


This guy is so wise 😂😂


The 747 was designed in an era when the engine reliability was so poor that the minimum number of engines allowed on an oceanic crossing was 3. Hence 1 for redundancy.

The A380 has such a large MTOW that no commercial engine exists that could power it if it was a twinjet.

Ironically 4,3 and 2 engined jets have the same minimum reserve requirement (30 minutes holding fuel at destination airfield)

So his argument is shot down as the same factors that caused the shortfall for the twinjet would ave similarly affected any other jet! :D


Yep! Idk why people who don’t know anything about aviation bother to comment 😤… it creeps me out

Another day, another scare in 2018.

I guess stronger then expected headwind on the way across the pacific?

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idk why people are freaking out. stuff like this happens. Ur sending 400,000 pounds of plane into the air over the Pacific Ocean applying flight/weather science to the natural constant changing world.

sometimes things happen. the pilots did their job and landed safely.

oceanic crossings have points in their flight plans where fuel and distance is exact, with points of no return. even if they realized they were lower on fuel, sometimes turning back the other way is not feasible.

And when I say “people freaking out” it’s the gp, not anyone here

You said tarmac… * swiss001 earrape *

VASAviation just uploaded the live ATC for this event. The approach controller was fantastic at accomodating for the United.

Sounds pretty Ryanair to me…

About 20+ years ago when I made that flight (as a mid-teen), I was on a Qantas 744 from LAX, we diverted to Brisbane while we were still out in the ocean. My recollection is that there was a certain minimum fuel requirement to land in certain weather which we did not meet. Therefore, we tracked to Brisbane long before we even got close to Sydney.

We ended up on Sydney almost 20 hours after we left LAX and missed our connection to Perth. Some passengers were happy…Brisbane was their final destination and they were actually allowed to deplane there.

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Ok, just to address something, every time an incident occurs, we do not need to see this phrase. Accidents happen all the time, unfortunately, lives are lost in some cases, but flying is still the safest way to travel. Every year has its flaws, but really we can’t just assume it’s a bad year.

Now, I’m not slamming you in any way, but I just can’t take when I see this comment on every aviation news article.

Good Day


Did any read the article? Fuel emergency because they had less than the minimum reserve. How did that happen? Well folks, it happened because there was stronger than expected headwinds. Headwinds cause more fuel consumption and are difficult to forecast! It was no ones fault except Mother Natures


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