In early August, an Emirates 777 crash landed in Dubai. While there has been a lot of speculation as to what happened, up until now we haven’t received much official information.
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 3, 2016
Well, the General Civil Aviation Authority of the UAE has released a preliminary report of what happened to EK521 as it came in to land at Dubai International Airport. This is a preliminary report, meaning it doesn’t draw any conclusions as to the cause of the crash, but rather reports on all the facts we know as of now.
As usual, the preliminary report is highly technical and 28 pages long, so the average person won’t understand much of what’s explained in the report. However, it’s a very interesting read nonetheless.
Big picture, what happened was that the plane landed “long,” about 1,100 meters down the runway, partly caused by a change in the winds as the plane approached.
The plane had full flaps and idle power as it touched down, though due to the warning system saying that the plane landed long, the pilots decided to execute a go around. That’s where things got messed up.
The plane climbed to an altitude of 85 feet and the pilots had already retracted the plane’s gear and raised the flaps, though the plane didn’t have a positive rate of climb. At that point the plane began to sink.
We don’t know whether the pilots tried to activate the “take off/go around” switch or not, though regardless it apparently doesn’t work on a Boeing once the gear makes contact with the ground (which matches a past theory we’ve heard about what happened).
While the evacuation was successful (all passengers got out safely, though unfortunately one of the firefighters died during the rescue efforts), it’s amazing that this was done in spite of major problems with the evacuation. The 777-300 has 10 emergency exits. Only five of the 10 emergency exits were ever used, and of the five used, some of them had problems beyond that, as you can see in the below chart:
On top of that, passengers stupidly took their personal belongings with them, which slowed down the evacuation process further, putting peoples’ lives at risk.
While totally random, it’s interesting to note that the captain was younger and had fewer hours than the first officer (which isn’t unusual at Emirates, as the captain was a “local,” while the first officer was Australian):
I’m not suggesting that had anything to do with the accident, as both pilots were pretty experienced. Rather I was just impressed that the 777 captain was just 34 — that’s impressive!
What we know for sure is that EK521 crashed due to a go around gone wrong. The winds changed during the landing, which caused the pilots to make a “long” landing and then decide to go around. Unfortunately the plane stalled as it tried to climb out, though it remains to be seen how exactly that mistake occurred.