New aircraft starts losing fuel hours into flight, lands in
Ireland, fuel runs out in seconds
A ferry pilot taking a new Cirrus SR22 across the Atlantic from
Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Canada to Ireland on Friday got into some
serious trouble when he noticed, far beyond the point where he
could turn back, that he was losing fuel.
The as-yet unidentified pilot decided that it would be a really
good idea to alert air traffic controllers to his situation, which
in turn triggered the beginning of a rescue operation by a Royal
Air Force squadron in Kinloss, Scotland. The media tensely followed
the events as the pilot ran into icing conditions which forced him
to descend to some 5,000 feet above sea level.
With fuel reserves running dangerously low, the pilot stated he
did not know whether he would be able to make Shannon's
International Airport in Ireland. "It's right on the wire whether
he will make it to Shannon or whether he will have to ditch in the
sea," said Michael Mulford of the Royal Air Force rescue service to
the Associated Press. "He is in the ultimate of difficult
The RAF dispatched a
Nimrod search and rescue aircraft, which was equipped to drop
equipment and supplies into the water should the pilot have to
ditch. The Nimrod shadowed the Cirrus as it wound its way through
heavy showers and snow, trying to stretch as much as possible what
little fuel it had left. Other rescue assets were positioned off
Ireland's west coast to assist in a rescue mission.
In the middle of the night, and through the heavy weather, the
pilot managed to squeeze his fuel tanks out of every last drop, and
finally reached Shannon International Airport. He landed the
aircraft, and within seconds, the engine quit from fuel starvation.
He'd made it.
Mulford commented that the landing at Shannon International
Airport had to be "a great miracle story at the end of 2004," and
praised the pilot's airmanship. "He must have judged it right down
to the last turn of the propeller," he said, while noting that the
right fuel tank had been the source of the leak throughout the
The pilot was described as "exhausted" by Paul Phelan,
spokesperson for the international airport. "He was sweating.
It's only natural coming across like that," said Paul Phelan.
Cirrus' spokesperson in the UK, Nick Tarratt, said he was not sure
who the pilot was, or his nationality, but stated the aircraft was
brand new, and was being ferried from the US to its new owner in