This Plane’s Going Down … In About 45 Minutes

Somewhere near the top of the list of things you DO NOT want to hear the captain come onto the PA system to announce has to be “We only have 45 minutes of fuel left”, and yet that’s exactly what was announced by the captain on a recent Austrian Airlines flight. The full story, as told by RooFlyer:

So we are on Austrian Airlines OS 0785 from Vienna to Sibiu, Romania, 90 minutes scheduled in a Dash 8.


Take off in good weather, but it clouds under us about 45 mins in. We soon descend beneath the cover, but its obvious we aren’t landing. We go on for about 20 minutes, reasonably low, beneath heavy cloud. Then we do a circle. Hmmm .. Sibiu ATC holding us back?


Then the Captain comes on, and makes an announcement first in German. Many in the Cabin react. Then the English version. Seems there are heavy thunderstorms at Sibiu, so we’ll have to wait for that. “Its OK” the Captain says “We have 45 minutes of fuel.”


$*&%!! Was that meant to be re-assuring?

I can only guess that the Captain (not a native English speaker I’m guessing) meant to say we have 1 hour 45 mins of fuel, or something like that. But he definitely said 45 minutes. I know we were in safe hands, but it wasn’t the most relaxing of flights!

Judging by the way RooFlyer describes the reaction of other passengers after the announcement in German, I’m thinking he might be being generous to chalk this up to mistranslation.

A few posts later, drb1979 gets to the crux of the matter, and offers some hearsay as to how tight airlines might actually be cutting it with regard to gas in the tank:

Curious announcement to make – would have been better if he said nothing amount remaining fuel!


Back in 1997 I sat in the flight deck for many hours flying AKL>LAX and I specifically remember the Captain(one of those QF “Pacific Barons”) stating they occasionally landed with only 45 minutes of fuel remaining in LAX. I was speechless to hear the margin was so small.

Other posters offers some alternative explanations for what the pilot might have meant, making this thread a very interesting read, especially for those with a passion for all things aviation related.

How would you have reacted had you heard this announcement? Me? I probably would have reacted very similarly to¬†Buzzard’s wife:

Mrs. B said she would pass out if she heard an announcement like that

Read the thread in its entirety: “We have 45 minutes of fuel”

Image: “Fuel Low” by Shardayyy. CC BY 2.0.


  1. U.S. domestic operations fuel requirements for airline flights are fuel to destination; fuel to an alternate landing field; plus 45 minutes.

    IACO fuel requirements are:

    Taxi fuel
    Trip fuel (to reach intended destination)
    Contingency fuel (higher of 5% of “trip fuel” or 5 minutes of holding flight)
    Destination alternate fuel (to fly a missed and reach an alternate)
    Final reserve fuel (45 minutes of holding flight for reciprocating engines, 30 minutes for jets)
    Additional fuel (if needed to guarantee ability to reach an alternate with an engine failure or at lower altitude due to a pressurization loss)
    Discretionary fuel (if the pilot in command wants it)

  2. You can do a lot in 45 minutes, I would not have been worried at all. Now if they had to dump their fuel – then I would get worried. That has only happened to me once.

  3. @Dave – great info, thanks for sharing.

    @Glenn – You are a braver man than I – but that’s setting the bar pretty low :p

  4. Forty-five minutes is plenty of time to reach many alternate airports, especially in Europe. It’s unrealistic to think that airliners should always carry hours and hours of extra fuel.

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