A preliminary 28-page report into last month’s Thiruvananthapuram-Dubai Emirates plane crash in Dubai reveals that the accident happened after pilot attempted to abort the landing.
The report released on Tuesday by the General Civil Aviation Authority indicates the wind changed direction in the final moments before the crash-landing and after an initial touchdown, the aircraft hit the runway as its three landing gear were retracting.
The report adds that the plane skidded along the runway for 800 metres before coming to a halt. There were 300 people on board.
According to the report, 21 passengers, one flight crew member, and one cabin crew member sustained minor injuries, and a second cabin crew member sustained a serious injury.
“Approximately nine minutes after the aircraft came to rest, a firefighter was fatally injured as a result of the explosion of the center fuel tank,” the report added.
Flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram 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 kilometer beyond the runway perimeter, triggering a “long landing” warning in the cockpit, the report 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The 777-300 came down on its tail and engines, with the wheels having been retracted after the aborted landing, the report says.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.
A flight attendant was hospitalised 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.
On the passengers’ behaviour, quoting the cabin crew members, the report stated that when the aircraft impacted and slid along the runway, passengers started to unfasten their seatbelts and stand up.
An announcement was made for the passengers to remain seated. When the aircraft came to rest, some passengers were screaming, grabbing their belongings, and asking the cabin crewmembers to open the doors.
The cabin crew members followed the operator’s safety instructions that prohibit passengers taking their carry-on baggage during an evacuation, and they instructed the passengers to leave their bags behind. However, several passengers evacuated the aircraft carrying their baggage.
Footage of the evacuation showed a number of passengers outside the aircraft with their baggage.