The pilot of the Emirates plane that crashed in Dubai last month aborted the landing after an initial touchdown in strong gusts, but the aircraft hit the runway as its landing gear was retracting, a preliminary report on the incident has revealed.
The report, released last week by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), indicated that the wind changed direction in the moments before the crash-landing and the plane skidded along the runway for 800 metres.
Flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram in India had 300 people on board when it crash-landed on August 3. The report said 24 were injured.
An Emirati firefighter died in an explosion while tackling the blaze.
The report also revealed that the aircraft captain and a senior crew member, the last on board, were forced to leap from the front-left door onto the slide after a fuel tank exploded.
All other passengers had already been removed on to the runway. After the explosion the cabin filled with thick smoke, blocking exits used by passengers and other crew.
The report said a senior crew member required medical treatment and was in hospital for five days with smoke inhalation, and another needed treatment to blisters on her feet.
“During the course of the rescue and firefighting an explosion occurred, which resulted in the tragic death of a firefighter,” said Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA.
“We hope the grief of the firefighter’s family is made more bearable by the knowledge that his courageous behaviour helped to ensure the survival of all people on board the flight.”
Ismaeil Al Hosani, assistant director general of the GCAA’s air accident investigation division, said: “Analysis of the data extracted from the flight recorders is ongoing to determine the aircraft and systems’ technical performance and crew control inputs and performance.
“In-depth analysis will be carried out to examine the operator’s policies and procedures for such flight conditions.”
On the day of the crash, a windshear warning was issued at 11.35am by the weather bureau for all runways at Dubai International Airport.
Visibility was about 4 kilometres with widespread dust.
At 12.31pm, the report said, the air traffic watch manager called the air traffic coordinator and informed him of the unusual wind conditions, and that there had already been two missed approaches because of gusts.
At 12.37pm, the right main landing gear of the plane touched down, three seconds before the left main landing gear. The nose landing gear remained in the air while the wind direction was changing.
Within seconds the pilots had started to retract the landing gear and they were told by the control tower to climb to 1,219 metres.
But the plane reached a height of only 26 metres before it began to drop again and then crash-landed, skidding before coming to a halt.
Emirates welcomed the report’s findings but said it was awaiting the full report.
“It does not cover causes of the accident nor does it make final safety recommendations,” a spokeswoman said.
“Emirates is also conducting its own rigorous internal investigation to proactively review what we know about the accident, and consider measures that may enhance our operations or procedures.”