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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK


Airline meeting over 'low fuel' report

Malaysian Airlines says it flies within safety regulations

Malaysian Airlines is to meet government officials after allegations that it repeatedly flew across the UK with dangerously low levels of fuel.

The BBC's Tom Heap: "Coming in on an empty tank is dangerous"
Monday's Flight International magazine reported that the airline's jets had flown into London's Heathrow Airport up to 10 times with less than the internationally agreed minimum of fuel on board.

But the firm insists that it always flies well within the required safety limits.

When a plane lands under normal circumstances it is required to carry enough fuel to get through two aborted landings and a diversion to an alternative airport.

Richmond Park MP Jennifer Tonge: "Heathrow is an accident waiting to happen"
But ground staff who work for Malaysian Airlines became concerned after a number of aircraft were reportedly found to have tanks that were dangerously empty.

They informed the confidential incident reporting programme, a whistle-blowing body set up by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Regulation of each airline rests in their home country, but the report has been passed onto the UK Department of Transport.

One Boeing 747 operated by the Asian carrier was reportedly found to have just three tonnes of fuel left when it landed. British Airways says it operates with a margin of nine tonnes.

The fuel reserve is needed because an incident on the runway could force a plane to abort its landing and circle round again, or even fly to another airport where the same thing could happen again.

Jennifer Tonge, Lib Dem MP for the Heathrow airport area, said: "The problem is that Heathrow airport is overcrowded and when you set out from wherever you set out from, Hong Kong, Malaysia, or wherever, you have no idea how many times you are going to have to circle Heathrow when you get there before you can land."

There are international regulations that airlines must observe, and Mrs Tonge said airlines that flout them should be banned from airports.

She said: "I would hope very much that those airlines who are found to have broken it are banned from using Heathrow."

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