Leaving Las Vegas: The 357 Mile Flight That Took 17 Hours

Final Monday night, Allegiant flight 161 departed Las Vegas McCarren Airport (LAS) for a routine, hour-long flight to Stockton CA (SCK).  All the pieces about this 357-mile flight was routine besides when it was time to land in Stockton.  On this publish, I’ll describe what occurred and reply some questions that you’ll have concerning the circumstances of this flight.

Allegiant Air Airbus A320. Picture credit score: Allegiant Air.

Touchdown At Stockton Airport

Nearing the strategy to Stockton, the pilot will first get the climate report after which contact the management tower.  The climate report is crucial for 2 causes:

  • Plane should take off and land flying into the wind for raise and
  • Plane have to observe the identical takeoff and touchdown patterns to keep away from collisions.

Allegiant 161 is scheduled to land at 9:25 pm after the personnel on the Stockton Airport management tower go dwelling.  The management tower is staffed from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.  To compound the problem extra was the automated climate data system was not working on the time.  

Aircrews usually acquire the airport climate data and the controllers within the tower will give the plane exact directions on tips on how to fly the touchdown sample main as much as the touchdown.  The controllers may also give the plane ultimate clearance to land.

Stockton Airport management tower data. The management tower is open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The Flight Was Compelled To Divert

Since touchdown at Stockton was not attainable, the captain determined to return to Las Vegas.  Whereas the plane was en route, the climate at Las Vegas (LAS) had turned to thunderstorms which prevented this flight from touchdown there.  Based mostly on the remaining gasoline, the captain elected to divert to Los Angeles Worldwide Airport (LAX).  

Allegiant flight 161 flight path. Picture credit score: flightradar24.

After touchdown at LAX, the 175 passengers have been allowed to deplane and led to a holding room that didn’t have restroom services.  The passengers have been issued $250.00 flight vouchers and so they have been left to fend for themselves.  Allegiant did fly the passengers to Stockton the following day arriving at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, 17 hours after they took off from Las Vegas.

Why Was The Management Tower Closed?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operates airport management towers that are staffed by FAA-employed air visitors controllers and contract controllers.  Staffing hours are based mostly on the extent designation by the FAA based mostly on the variety of annual operations an airport has.  An operation is outlined as a “takeoff” or “touchdown”.  Los Angeles Worldwide Airport is a high-level airport and is staffed 24-hours per day.  Stockton Airport has a decrease degree designation which has part-time management tower staffing.

Can Plane Land With out An Energetic Management Tower?

When there isn’t a management tower at an airport or the tower is closed, plane can take off and land.  Pilots are required to speak with one another by radio utilizing the Frequent Visitors Advisory Frequency (CTAF).   These radio frequencies are listed on the sectional charts (maps) that pilots fly with.  This technique of spacing out departing and touchdown plane normally works.  It really works when all pilots concerned are paying consideration.  I used to be touchdown a Cessna 182 at an uncontrolled airport when an plane taxied onto the lively runway and I needed to abort the touchdown on quick ultimate strategy.  

The Climate Report

The climate report is required so the pilot is aware of which approach the wind is blowing and how briskly together with different meteorological knowledge.  The climate report is obtained from considered one of three strategies:

  • Automated Terminal Data System (ATIS) – this can be a recorded report made by the management tower employees and up to date when the circumstances change.  ATIS additionally has airport data equivalent to closed runways and taxiways,
  • Automated Floor Commentary System (ASOS) – this can be a recorded report from climate instrumentation on the airport and
  • Automated Climate Commentary System (AWOS) –  this can be a related recorded from climate instrumentation on the airport.

Within the case of Allegiant 161, the ASOS gear at Stockton Airport was not working.  There was no approach for the flight crew to acquire the climate data on the airport.

Why Not Divert To Oakland (OAK)?

That is the plain query.  If an airline has to divert, it could choose to divert to an airport that they already serve.  Allegiant does serve Oakland and operates flights between LAS and OAK.

Allegiant Air route map. (crimson arrow signifies OAK)

Oakland is just 55 air miles from Stockton and Allegiant has services at OAK.  After touchdown at OAK, the airline might have put the passengers on buses for the 70-mile drive to Stockton.  Why didn’t Allegiant 161 divert to Oakland?  I do not know and I might discover no data on why the choice was made to return to Las Vegas and in the end Los Angeles over touchdown in Oakland.  

Remaining Ideas

Whereas loopy flight diversions are uncommon, they do occur.  These diversions normally happen as a result of climate circumstances being beneath the required minimal requirements to land.  Within the case of Allegiant 161, it was a mix of a closed management tower and the lack to acquire airport climate circumstances.  Why does Allegiant schedule a flight to land after the management tower is closed for the day?

Though many passengers aboard this flight described it as “the flight from hell”, the plane was operated in a secure method and the passengers have been by no means at risk.  

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