Tracking Delta Flight 89’s path before it dumped fuel on an elementary school

Delta Flight 89 makes an emergency landing at LAX
The flight to Shanghai departed Los Angeles International Airport at 11:32 a.m. and turned north two minutes later, looping through the San Fernando Valley and southeastern L.A. County before making the emergency fuel dump that rained down on Cudahy’s Park Avenue Elementary. The jet landed at LAX just before noon.
(Matt Stiles / Los Angeles Times)

A diverted flight from Los Angeles International Airport that dumped fuel on a school playground during an emergency return to the airport was in the air just two minutes en route to Shanghai when it abruptly turned north over the Pacific Ocean.

The cause of the diversion still isn’t known, but the pilots took the plane — a Boeing 777 — north over Malibu within four minutes after takeoff at 11:32 a.m., according to Flightradar24, a firm that maintains airline path data across the globe.


11:38 a.m.

It’s a routine flight for Delta, with the airline offering near-daily flights along that route — and typically in the same model plane.

During Tuesday’s flight, however, an engine problem apparently forced the pilots to end the journey abruptly. The passengers were back on the ground at LAX within 25 minutes, the site’s flight path data show.

The journey back to the airport, in which the airline said it dumped fuel over urban southeastern Los Angeles County, took a looping route over the San Fernando Valley.

11:41 a.m.

The flight, which never flew higher than 8,000 feet, then moved over Griffith Park not long after, heading into southeastern L.A. County.


11:45 a.m.

Minutes later, the flight began making its return to LAX, looping back west.

11:53 a.m.

The pilots eventually were forced to dump fuel over an urban area to reduce weight before the return landing, Delta spokesperson Adrian Gee said. Among those who noticed the fuel raining down were students at Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy.

The plane was flying at just 2,300 feet around this time, the data show.

11:56 a.m.

The flight was back at LAX by lunchtime. Here’s the full route:

How did pilots of a Delta jetliner end up dumping fuel on a playground filled with children in Cudahy? That is the question many are asking.

Jan. 14, 2020