Wind shear possible cause of Emirates crash landing
Aviation experts have begun to weigh in on what might have caused the crash of EK 521, an Emirates flight from India to Dubai on Wednesday.
The Boeing 777 crash landed at Dubai International and burst into flames in what is the worst accident for Emirates in its more than 30-year history. All 300 passengers and crew were safely evacuated.
While an investigation led by the General Civil Aviation Authority is underway, supported by officials from the US (where the plane was manufactured) and the UK (where its Rolls-Royce engines were produced), Australian media has suggested wind shear may have been a factor.
Flight EK521 was on final to land at Dubai International after a four hour flight from India when Air Traffic Control reportedly informed the captain the landing gear wasn’t down, no emergency services were requested and the pilots informed the tower of a ‘go around’.
A few moments later, the Boeing 777 landed without its landing gear down, or with the gear partially retracted, causing the right wing to strike the ground, sheering off one of the engines and starting a major fire.
Passengers were not told there was a problem before landing and Emirates’ Chairman and Chief Executive Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the aircraft’s inspections were up to date and it was “clear to land”.
Aviation experts have said that wind shear, which had been reported at the airport earlier on Wednesday, seems the most likely reason for the crash landing, but an investigation is ongoing.
Former Emirates 777 captain Byron Bailey told Australian newspaper News.com.au the incident was very surprising given Emirates’ and the aircraft’s excellent safety record.
“Pilots would never land with unsafe gear — there’s all kinds of procedures you would do — you would fly around, you’d dump fuel, you’d burn off, you’d have emergency services standing by; so this was not an expected emergency,” Bailey said. “I’ve had this myself. You enter a holding pattern, you sort everything out and it takes time. This looks like it happened suddenly.”
Aviation consultant Neil Hansford agreed it would be unusual for the aircraft not to fly around Air Traffic Control to let them inspect the landing gear, if the crew had been aware of a problem.
Mr Hansford said:. “We won’t know until they download the cockpit voice recorder.”
While all 300 passengers and crew made it off the plane in just 46 seconds, one firefighter, Jasim Issa Mohammed Hassan, was killed trying to contain the fire during the evacuation.
The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority, which investigates all plane crashes, issued a statement Thursday on the state-run WAM news agency saying that work was underway “to recover the flight data recorder ... and the cockpit voice recorder.”