Emergency Fuel Dump

Yes, airliners like the A300 as well as military aircraft are equipped with emergency fuel dump systems that allow them to release fuel in flight. On most aircraft, these systems are designed to dump fuel from both wingtips. An example, shown below, illustrates a B-1B bomber dumping fuel from its wingtips.

B-1B bomber dumping fuel
B-1B bomber dumping fuel

The reason planes are equipped to release fuel in flight is in case of an emergency landing shortly after takeoff. Landing gear and the structure of most aircraft are only designed to absorb the impact of landing up to a certain weight. When fully loaded with fuel, most planes are simply too heavy to land safely without risking a landing gear collapse or other disastrous structural failure. Planes are therefore fitted with emergency fuel dump systems that release enough fuel to lighten the aircraft until they can land safely. You may also recall Harrison Ford fooling with the fuel release system in the movie Air Force One with nothing more than a butter knife, but this was clearly for different reasons!
- answer by Jeff Scott, 25 November 2001

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