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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Emirates crash landing: Investigators rule out mechanical failure

Focus now on examining pilots' precise actions in moments before Dubai airport accident

Emergency crews arrived quickly after the Emirates plane crash landed at Dubai International Airport but one firefighter died in the incident. Photo: Twitter
Emergency crews arrived quickly after the Emirates plane crash landed at Dubai International Airport but one firefighter died in the incident. Photo: Twitter

Investigators probing the 2016 crash landing of an Emirates flight in Dubai say there were no mechanical problems leading up to the incident, with the focus now shifting to establishing exactly what the pilots did in the moments before the plane came down.

A statement issued on Sunday by the General Civil Aviation Authority said "there were no aircraft systems or engine abnormalities up to the time of the accident".

Investigators are "working to determine and analyse the human performance factors that influence flight crew actions".

The August 3, 2016, crash landing destroyed the Boeing 777-300 coming from Thiruvananthapuram, India, with 282 passengers and 18 crew.

A preliminary report into the crash last September found the pilot aborted the landing after an initial touchdown in strong gusts, but the aircraft hit the runway as its landing gear was retracting.

The investigation from the GCAA performed a detailed examination into the aircraft evacuation systems, including the operation of emergency escape slides, and the effects of wind on the escape slides.

Twenty-one passengers, one flight crew member and four cabin crew members sustained minor injuries. Four cabin crew members sustained serious injuries.

About nine minutes after the aircraft came to rest, Jassim Al Baloushi — a firefighter — was killed after the explosion of a wing fuel tank.

“On first glance, it seems the pilot may have been indecisive about the planned go around because he actually managed to get the airplane onto the ground,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research in the UK.

“The sequence of events leading to that as well as the decision to retract the main landing gear, which ultimately led to the airplane collapsing on touchdown, is what will be key to the investigation”.

He said the airplane did exactly as it was guided to do.

“It’s easy to second guess what could and should have been done, but in real-time, it’s difficult to know what the pilot in command was thinking given the prevailing conditions and the overall performance of the jet as it came down to land,” Mr Ahmad said.

“This is why the human factor is key to understanding what happened, why it happened and what processes can be developed or enhanced to ensure a repeat event does not occur."

Capt Darren Straker, former head of air accident investigation at the GCAA, said it is hoped the final report will also shed light on how the wing tank came to explore nine minutes after the crash landing, so that lessons can be learned. The Boeing 777 is regarded as one of the safest aircraft in the skies.

He said loss of control in-flight is in the top three causes of accidents, though crashes are uncommon and have numerous contributing factors.

“This accident was preventable, hopefully the systemic issues will be identified in the final report. Preliminary analysis points to crew training standards and the oversight of that process, in conjunction with consequential effects of the prolonged runway contact, high temperatures and resulting explosion.”

An Emirates spokesperson said its internal investigation was ongoing, including a thorough review of all training and operational processes and procedures.

“Emirates is awaiting the publication of the UAE AAIS Annex 13 final investigation report, at which time any safety directives will be implemented and any safety recommendations will be considered,” the airline said.

“We continue to extend our full cooperation to the investigators as they work towards the final report.”The August 3, 2016, crash landing destroyed the Boeing 777-300 coming from Thiruvananthapuram, India.

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Read more:

Emirates flight crash lands at Dubai airport - in pictures

Dubai crash pilot ‘aborted his landing after touching down’

Emirates plane crash landing in Dubai: As it happened

Hundreds of mourners turn out for funeral of hero Emirates flight firefighter

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