Did You Know
Did You Know
Aviation experts are investigating whether faulty landing gear could have caused a plane to crash at Dubai international airport and burst into flames, killing a firefighter tackling the blaze, although all 300 passengers and crew were able to escape.
The Emirates Boeing 777 was engulfed by intense fire, and black smoke billowed from its fuselage just after it crash-landed at 12.45pm local time (9.45am BST).
Passengers on flight EK521, which was travelling from Thiruvananthapuram in the southern Indian state of Kerala, and included 226 people from India and 24 from the UK, spoke of their terror as the plane hit the tarmac.
Sharon Maryam Sharji told Reuters: “It was actually really terrifying. As we were landing there was smoke coming out in the cabin. People were screaming and we had a very hard landing. We left by going down the emergency slides and as we were leaving on the runway we could see the whole plane catch fire; it was horrifying.”
Emirates, the region’s biggest carrier, would not comment on the possible cause of the incident but said all passengers were safe.
The airline’s chair and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said: “We pay tribute to the firefighter who lost his life fighting the blaze. We thank all teams that dealt with the incident.”
The Indian ambassador to the UAE, TP Seetharam, said many passengers were in shock and only one person, a crew member, had been taken to hospital.
Hundreds of thousands of Kerala residents work in the Gulf countries and Indians made up the majority of those on board. But the Indian state is also a popular holiday destination, for which Dubai serves as a connection, and there were 20 nationalities on board including the 24 from the UK, 11 from the United Arab Emirates and six each from the US and Saudi Arabia.
Dubai International airport, the Middle East’s busiest, was closed for more than five hours as a result of the incident, causing many incoming flights to be diverted until it was reopened at around 6.30pm. But Emirates predicted that there would be an eight-hour delay in operations across its network.
Video footage showed that the plane appeared to have come down on its belly without the use of its wheels, lending credence to the theory that the landing gear was at fault.
Monitoring site the Aviation Herald said that according to air traffic control recordings no emergency was declared by the aircraft but the control tower reminded the crew to lower the gear as it cleared it to to land.
Some people waiting for relatives said passengers had been informed there was a problem with the landing gear.
Iype Vallikadan, a reporter from Indian newspaper Mathrubhumi News, told the Associated Press that passengers said the pilot spoke to them as the plane neared Dubai, saying there was a problem with the landing gear and that he would make an emergency landing.
Passengers said the cabin crew opened all the emergency exits of the plane and that all 300 passengers and crew on board the aircraft were evacuated within minutes of the landing.
Aviation expert David Learmount suggested the heat – it was almost 50C – could have been a factor. “If you get a damaged wing and fuel comes out of it, it vaporises in temperatures like that and vapour is highly inflammable,” he said.
Dubai was also relatively windy with dust blowing and wind shear – a potentially hazardous condition involving sudden and unpredictable changes in wind direction or speed – reported on all runways.
The Boeing 777 is considered one of the safest planes around. More than 1,000 have been produced and there have only been only a few dozen incidents logged, most of them minor.
The first fatal crash in the plane’s 21-year history only came in July 2013, when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people on board died, one of whom was hit by an emergency truck after surviving the crash.
In January 2008, a British Airways 777 landed 305 metres short of the runway at London’s Heathrow airport. Two Malaysian Airlines flights which came down in 2014 – MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board and has never been found, and MH17 – which was shot down over eastern Ukraine – were also 777s.