A US-bound passenger jet was forced to dump thousands of litres of aviation fuel before diverting to Shannon Airport with a seriously ill passenger on Friday.
United Airlines flight UA-986 was en route from Paris to Chicago and was almost three hours into its journey when the crew notified air traffic controllers that they had a medical emergency on board.
The Boeing 777-200 jet, with 271 passengers and crew on board, was about 1200 kilometres west of Shannon when the pilot declared a medical emergency.
The crew advised controllers that they had a passenger on board who was unconscious and unresponsive. Cabin crew staff administered first aid including oxygen while its understood that a defibrillator was also deployed. It’s not known never whether the device had to be used.
The pilot advised controllers that they wished to turn around and divert to Shannon and requested that emergency medical services be available for their arrival.
The crew also said they would need to dump fuel before landing to ensure they touched down within safety weight limitations. While descending towards Shannon the crew jettisoned several thousand litres of fuel over the Atlantic before reaching the Clare coast.
Airport crash crews were placed on standby to check that the jet’s braking system didn’t overheat during the emergency landing.
The flight landed safely at 1.59pm and taxied directly to the terminal where HSE ambulance paramedics were waiting to meet the aircraft.
Fire crews, with fire hoses at the ready, remained with the aircraft until it was confirmed that there was no overheating of the undercarriage.
Paramedics quickly boarded the plane where they assessed and stabilised the patient before they were removed to University Hospital Limerick for treatment.
The flight was able to continue its journey at 3.30pm after the passengers baggage had been removed from the aircraft, in accordance with security requirements, and the plane was refuelled.