Plane Answers: Fuel dumping and free travel for airline employees

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Arjav asks:

Hi Kent,

Recently I was flying on a Emirates flight from JFK to DXB and I looked out the window and saw this pipe that looks almost like a muffler. Then on my 2nd half of the trip I saw it again on another aircraft. I have never seen this on any plane before. Both planes were made by Airbus: A380 and A330.

So is this only found on Airbus planes or is something only found on Emirates aircraft and what is it for?

Congratulations on your A380 flight. I’d love to have experienced that.

What you saw on both airplanes is, for the most part, unique to widebody Airbus and Boeing airplanes. At the end of one of the flap track fairings on the wing is a fuel dump nozzle. In the event of an emergency, we can elect to dump fuel at a very fast rate, which allows us to climb better if we had an engine failure or to land at less than our maximum landing weight should the emergency require an immediate return.

This fuel dumping has been in the news lately, in fact. An Asiana Airlines flight had to dump fuel from an altitude of 3,000 feet over Puget Sound. The Washington Department of Ecology was rumored to be considering a fine against Asiana, but just a few days later said that it didn’t make sense to second-guess the pilot’s actions in an emergency.

Fifteen years ago I had to dump fuel in a 727 after an engine failure immediately after takeoff in Indianapolis. The climb rate of the fully loaded cargo jet with one engine inoperative wasn’t impressive and the procedure called for dumping fuel immediately. We were so busy with the emergency checklists that little consideration was given to the environmental impacts when we had to dump fuel.

The dumped fuel tends to evaporate on the way down to the ground, but it’s certainly worth giving the emergency situation and the location some thought before automatically pressing the dump valves.

Jackie asks:

Since I started traveling more frequently, I have been eager to rack up miles and elite status with airlines. I have always wanted to know the perks of airline workers, especially pilots and flights attendants. Do you plus family get to fly for free? Is it in economy or business/first class?
AIrline employees can travel for a reduced rate, sometimes even free domestically on their own airline. The catch is that these free or reduced rate flights are on a standby basis, subject to the occasional bumping from oversold flights. First class flights domestically and coach flights internationally aren’t free at my airline, and occasionally a full fare domestic ticket can be a more attractive option.

Employees are sometimes offered ‘buddy passes’ to share with friends and extended family, but those often come at a cost equivalent of a discounted ticket and are also subject to space availability.

Since you’re on a quest to rack up airline miles, I have to suggest the website as the ultimate place to learn from the experts who discuss ‘mileage runs’ and other techniques to rack up miles.

If mileage runs are too much hassle, you can always find an airline employee to marry. “Marry me, fly free!” is how I convinced my wife to take the plunge.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for next Monday’s Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work.