x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Passenger jet in turbulence scare returns to Dubai

Emirates Airline plane on which passengers and crew were injured when it suddenly lost altitude flew back to Dubai after safety checks in India.

DUBAI // The Emirates Airline plane on which 23 passengers and crew were injured when it lost altitude suddenly during turbulence was flown back to Dubai yesterday having passed safety checks in India. The airline said in a statement that it had provided a replacement aircraft for yesterday's return flight after the plane involved in Sunday's airborne drama was grounded for inspections.

"A replacement aircraft carried passengers on EK531 - the return flight - to Dubai yesterday. The Boeing 777-200 involved in the incident has been cleared to fly by India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and will return to Dubai at 11.00 GMT today with crew only," said Majid al Mualla, the senior vice president, commercial operations West Asia and Indian Ocean in a statement.   The plane carrying 350 passengers was cruising at 35,000 feet on its way from Dubai to Kochi on Sunday morning when it dropped suddenly during severe turbulence. Indian newspapers reported that the plane dropped by 15,000 feet when it hit a downdraft - sometimes known as an air pocket - but Emirates said that the drop in altitude was just 200 feet.

Passengers aboard flight EK530 reported being hurled around the cabin as the aircraft was tossed from side to side by the turbulence, although Emirates has said the "fasten your seatbelt" sign was lit. Twenty passengers and three crew members suffered minor injuries such as cuts and bruises. The DGCA in India said the aircraft had sustained some damage in the incident and grounded it at Nedumbassery International Airport in Kochi until they had carried out inspections. Its inspectors were on board the plane on Sunday night and yesterday, gathering evidence required to prepare a formal report. 

In a statement following the incident, the General Civil Aviation Authority in the UAE described it as a "serious incident" and said it would co-ordinate with Indian authorities in a thorough investigation. @Email:pmenon@thenational.ae