Dubai: An Emirates jet crashed last month after trying to land too far down the runway in a strong tailwind and failing in a bid to take off again when the gusts changed direction, according to a preliminary study into the accident.
The August 3 crash, which injured 24 of the 300 people on board and led to the death of a firefighter on the ground, happened after Dubai International Airport issued a windshear warning while clearing the Boeing Co. 777 to land, the report from the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority says.
Flight EK521 from India approached the airport in a following wind of 16 knots, with the right-hand wheels hitting the ground three seconds before the left side in an attempted touchdown that was more than a kilometre beyond the runway perimeter, triggering a "long landing” warning in the cockpit, the study says.
The jet attempted a go-around maneuver and subsequently encountered a headwind, climbing to a height of only 85 feet before sinking back onto the runway at a descent rate of 900 feet a minute.
The 777-300 came down on its tail and engines, with the wheels having been retracted after the aborted landing, the report says. One turbine broke off as the plane slid along the runway, causing "an intense fuel-fed fire,” with the flight’s captain issuing a Mayday call and ordering an evacuation.
The firefighter was killed when a fuel tank exploded, sending a 15-metre (50-foot) wing section into the air, about nine minutes after the plane had come to rest and the blaze had appeared to be under control. A flight attendant was hospitalized for five days with smoke inhalation, with all other injuries classified as minor. The aircraft itself was destroyed.
The crash was the worst in the 30-year history of Dubai-based Emirates, the world’s biggest airline by international traffic. The preliminary report didn’t say whether the plane should have been allowed to land, or if its pilots behaved correctly during the approach and subsequent go-around attempt.
Further findings will be released in due course, with the aircraft’s performance, technical and engineering aspects, the airline’s procedures, air navigation provision, firefighting measures and weather forecasting all under scrutiny, the regulator said.