Published on August 8th, 2016 | by Jim Lee


Emirates Boeing 777-31H, A6-EMW involved in “operational incident”

In a brief statement on 3rd August, Emirates confirmed that its flight EK-521, operated by Boeing 777-31H, A6-EMW (c/n 32700), was involved in what was described as “an operational incident” while landing at Dubai International Airport at approximately 12:45 local time on that day. Although all passengers and crew were evacuated safely due to the quick response of the teams at Emirates and Dubai International Airport, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

A6-EMW had operated flight EK-521 from Thiruvananthapuram (India) to Dubai, having departed there at 05:06 (UTC). While on final approach to Dubai’s runway 12L at 08:41 UTC (12:41 Local), the aircraft suffered an accident on the runway and fire broke out after the aircraft came to rest, resulting in a complete burn down of the aircraft’s fuselage and substantial damaged to the wings and engines.

Emirates B773 wreckage after fire was extinguished (Photo DOT Emirates)

Emirates Boeing 777-300 wreckage after fire was extinguished (Photo DOT Emirates)

Reports indicate that the aircraft attempted to go around from low height, but failed to climb. After retracting the gear, the aircraft touched down on the runway but then burst into flames. Somewhere in the accident sequence the right hand engine separated from the wing. There were 282 passengers and 18 crew on board, but fortunately all occupants were evacuated via slides. 13 passengers received minor injuries, ten were taken to hospitals and three treated at the airport. Four Irish people were among the passengers who survived, although tragically, a firefighter attending to the incident lost his life. The fatality was confirmed by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) who identified him as Emirati Jassim Al Baloushi. It said he died from injuries sustained during the emergency response. In a comment, the director of the GCAA, said: “I salute his ultimate sacrifice that kept many from harm’s way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Emirates confirmed that the aircraft, powered by Rolls- Royce Trent 800 engines, was delivered new to the airline on 28th March 2003. It had first flown on 7th March 2003. Both the Captain and the First Officer had over 7,000 hours of flying experience each.

The Aviation Herald ( reports reported that a passenger in the aft cabin had said that the approach was normal, with no announcements, or indications of anything abnormal. Then there was a heavy impact, oxygen masks came down, the aircraft skidded, shaking violently, and immediately filled with smoke and coming to a stop. All doors were opened it appeared however that not all of them were used for evacuation. After sliding down the chute the passenger began to run, about 100 meters from the aircraft an explosion was heard. A video circulating online shows the aircraft sliding to a stop.

It further reports that another passenger said that the captain made an announcement they would land at Dubai and the weather was fine, nothing appeared to be amiss. Suddenly the aircraft hit the ground tail/belly first, at the same time the right hand engine caught fire, and the aircraft skidded to a halt, smoke filled the cabin. It was only at this time the passengers realised the seriousness of the situation.

The Aviation Herald also makes reference to ATC recordings, which indicates that the aircraft performed a normal approach and landing. At no stage was there any indication of any problems and neither a priority landing or any emergency declared. Upon contacting tower, the tower advised the crew to plan to vacate the runway at taxiway M9 and cleared the aircraft to land. Several listeners interpreted this as a reminder for the crew to lower the gear. About two minutes after EK-521 reported on tower, the crew reported going around and tower instructed the aircraft to climb to 4,000 feet (1,219.2 m), the crew acknowledged climbing to 4000 feet, a few seconds later tower instructs the next arrival to go around and alerts emergency services. The position of the aircraft is described near the end of the runway.

In a statement on 4th August, Emirates reported that both captain and first officer had accumulated more than 7000 flying hours. It also confirmed that the aircraft was equipped with Trent 800 engines and had been delivered to the airline in March 2003.

Emirates 777 at Dubai

In the aftermath of the incident, Dubai International Airport was closed for a few hours, but it was able to gradually resume operations at approximately 18:30 (local), with larger aircraft being given priority. This it allowed the airport to “return to regular scheduled activity sooner than anticipated”. However 50 Emirates services were either cancelled or diverted in the immediate aftermath of the accident and six hour closure, affecting some 23,000 passengers.

Dublin is served twice daily from Dubai and flights were consequently affected. The first flight on the 3rd, the UAE161/2, operated by Boeing 777-31H(ER), A6-ENV, arrived in Dublin at 12:15 some ten minutes behind schedule. Its departure however was delayed to 16:36, meaning that it landed in Dubai at 23:48, some 3½ hours late. The evening flight, UAE163/4 scheduled to arrive in Dublin at 20:25, was delayed to the following morning, with the UAE163, operated by another Boeing 777, A6-ECV, arriving in Dublin at 10:52. It returned to Dubai at 13:54. The UAE161/2 on the 4th, operated by A6-EBR, arrived in Dublin at 12:38 and departed at 15:04, meaning another delayed arrival into Dubai. It was similar with the UAE163/4, operated by A6-ECV, which arrived at 10:52 and departed again at 13:54.

In an update on 5th August, Dubai Airport confirmed that it had lifted all remaining capacity restrictions and the airport was “back to normal operation”. “We continue to work with our airline partners and stakeholders in order to ensure that the few remaining passengers affected by the disruption reach their ultimate destination as soon possible” it added. Emirates have confirmed that passengers holding tickets purchased on or before 3rd August can rebook or cancel their bookings at no charge.

Emirates have said that it was fully collaborating with local authorities to determine the cause of the incident. Normally this would involve months of painstaking work sifting through flight data, witness accounts and physical evidence and of course successful recovery and analysis of the cockpit voice and flight recorders. However in the case of flight EK-521, within ten minutes of the crash, all the information from the flight data recorder was in the hands of the airline thanks to a miniQAR Mk III quick access recorder, which wirelessly transmitted critical flight data from the aircraft. The tiny transmitting device, small enough to fit in your hand, is manufactured by Miami based of Avionica. Raul Segredo, president and chief executive of Avionica, has said that Emirates officials have confirmed to his company that the device worked on the crashed 777. This device obviously will aid the investigation and points to the future of air safety, particularly in the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysia 370 in March 2014.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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