This answer to the question about an emergency landing very early in a trans-continental flight indicated that the fuel in the aft auxiliary tanks could cause the plane to tip on its tail if the passengers weren't unloaded carefully. The cabin crew seems to have kept everyone calm and orderly, and they deplaned with no further incident.

My question is how did the orderly disembarkation prevent the plane from tipping?

These are the thoughts that ran through my head as I read the story:

  • Were the pilots busy moving fuel out of those aft tanks while the pax were deplaning?
    • If so would they have started the rebalancing as soon as the firefighters cleared the plane to move?
    • Would that have taken the hour it took to get the plane to a gate for them to shift all the fuel?
  • What else would be involved?
  • If the fuel in the tail would cause the plane to tip, unloading the pax slowly would still leave it with an aft CG, and it would still tip once the critical number of people were off.
  • $\begingroup$ More likely they unloaded passengers starting with the rear rows. In a normal disembarcation the people at the front leave first. $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Oct 15 '15 at 14:03

Apparently, there have been a number of incidents with 'tail tipping' in case of Boeing 737-900s and 900ERs. In these situations, the plane 'tipping' on its tail can be prevented by two methods:

There is also some indication that the 737-900s are loaded in the front rows (1-17) first followed by aft rows, while the unloading takes place in the opposite way.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, if the pax and bags are removed from rear to front, that should retain enough balance to prevent a tip? $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Oct 15 '15 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Atleast in this case, it appears so. Airlines seem to follow that procedure. $\endgroup$ – aeroalias Oct 15 '15 at 17:02

Generally Planes are unloaded from the front to the back. In this case its likely they unloaded the aft passengers first to keep the CG forward biased. You are also assuming that they had some place to pump the fuel from the aft tanks. Since the plane diverted from Newark to Buffalo (a short hop relatively speaking) its likely the main tanks did not have enough space to allow pumping the aft tank into the mains. You would need to look over fuel burn charts for the plane to figure that out number for number someone here may have those figures for you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the lack of space for fuel to be pumped was another point I'd considered, but failed to put in my question. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Oct 15 '15 at 14:50

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