A pilot who says he was just minutes away from running out of gas had to declare an in-air fuel emergency after he learned that an airport in North Dakota was temporarily closed to accommodate a Blue Angels airshow rehearsal, ABC News has learned.
Just before 1 p.m. on July 23, Allegiant Air Flight 426, circling over Fargo’s Hector International Airport, requested a landing following a 2-and-a-half hour flight from Nevada. He was told that due to a temporary flight restriction, the runway would remain closed for about 20 more minutes.
“We don’t have enough fuel to go anywhere else,” the pilot told Air Traffic Control, according to audio obtained from LIVEATC.NET.
“There’ll be a window of opening in about 20 minutes for landing,” ATC responded.
“Yeah, I don’t have 20 minutes,” the pilot said.
Air Traffic Control then recommended the pilot land at an airport 70 miles away.
“Listen,” the pilot said, “We’re at bingo fuel here in about, probably three or four minutes. I gotta come in and land.”
(“Bingo fuel” is pilot-speak for "about to run out.")
“I’d have to have you declare an emergency for that,” ATC responded, “and we would coordinate to get you in.”
According to Allegiant Air, the flight -- which arrived at Fargo about 90 minutes later than expected due to a delayed departure -- eventually “declared a fuel emergency upon arrival at Hector International Airport (FAR) and subsequently landed safely.”
Meanwhile, the Air Traffic controller instructed the Blue Angels to suspend their rehearsal.
“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,” Allegiant said in a statement to ABC News.
According to a spokesperson from the Fargo airport, Hector International began notifying air carriers of the flight restriction in December 2014.
Had Allegiant “timed their arrival accordingly, it probably would have been a non-issue,” airport Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein told ABC News, noting that the air carriers generally “take it upon themselves to arrive and depart” according to the airport’s schedule.
“Your company dispatch should have been aware of this,” the dispatcher told the pilot at the time.
Generally, federal regulations require planes to have enough fuel to get to their destination airport, as well as a pre-designated diversion airport, plus an additional 45 minutes of flying time.