Emirates 777 Crash-Lands in Dubai

Was This a Botched Go-Around? Plus: Deadly Stupidity Redux. Yet More Passenger Recklessness.

EK521 4

UPDATE: September 7, 2016

Nothing is official yet, but this is looking more and more like a botched go-around.

Procedures and techniques vary airline to airline and plane to plane, but a normal go-around maneuver goes enstially like this: First, the captain or first officer calls out “go-around.” The pilot at the controls then depresses one of the TO/GA switches attached to the thrust levers — we say “toga,” an acronym for “takeoff/go-around” — at which point the autothrottles will increase power to the required setting, and the flight director bars will command the proper pitch. As the pilot brings the nose up, he calls for the landing gear to be retracted, and for the the flaps and slats to be repositioned for the climb. A mode annunciator will flash “GA” (or something similar) verifying that the TO/GA switch was depressed and the go-around sequence has commenced. All of this happens in just a few seconds. Then jet then climbs away.

Approaching the runway threshold, engine power will be back nearly to idle. Therefore, and perhaps obviously, the most important of these steps is increasing the power. Pitching the nose up and reconfiguring the flaps and gear is not going to accomplish anything without enough thrust to climb. On the contrary, speed will bleed off rapidly, and if things aren’t quickly corrected, the plane will stall and crash.

According to the preliminary report from Dubai, power was not increased until eight full seconds after repositioning of the flaps and landing gear. At time 08:37:27, the flap lever was moved to the 20 position, which is the standard setting for a go-around on a 777-300. Two seconds later the landing gear lever was selected up and the gear began to retract. So far, so good, but it wasn’t until time 08:37:35, three seconds before impact with the runway, that both thrust levers were moved forward from the idle position. In other words, they were trying to go around without power. That sounds to me like they either neglected to activate the TOGA function entirely, thought they had activated it, or, the system malfunctioned.

None of those three things is a killer, so long as the crew is paying attention and catches the error — in this case, noticing that the thrust is not increasing. And although eight seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of time, when you factor in windshear and an outside temperature close to 50 degrees celsius, the plane’s performance was already adversely affected. There was limited margin for error.

A go-around is a busy transition, but you need to make sure that the correct steps were taken and the plane is doing what it’s supposed to. At some carriers, as an added step, pilots are required to call out the “GA” annunciation on the mode control panel, verifying activation of the TO/GA sequence.

 

August 4, 2016

ON AUGUST 3rd, an Emirates Boeing 777-300 crash-landed and burst into flames at the Dubai airport. All 300 passengers and crew managed to escape before fire consumed most of the plane’s upper fuselage. A firefighter was killed battling the blaze.

Flight EK521 was arriving from Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), India, carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew members. Information from Dubai has been spotty and incomplete, so it’s difficult to construct a probable scenario. Here it is several days later, and we’re are still hearing conflicting accounts of even basic information. According to various accounts and air traffic control recordings, the aircraft apparently was attempting a go-around maneuver (aborted landing), when, seconds later, it struck the ground hard and skidded to a stop on its belly. There are conflicting reports as to whether the plane’s landing gear had been retracted prior to the impact, or if it collapsed upon landing. Normal go-around procedures call for the pilots to retract the gear once the plane starts to climb.

Weather at the time was gusty and unstable, with blowing dust and low-level windshear. Windshear is a rapid change in the direction or velocity of the wind, which in severe cases can lead to a dangerous loss of flying speed. Garden-variety shears are common and almost never dangerous, but it’s possible the crew encountered an unusually powerful shear while transitioning from the landing to the go-around, causing the jet to descend and strike the ground. Modern aircraft have sophisticated windshear warning systems, and pilots are well trained in how to deal with this phenomenon, but in rare cases shears can exceed the capabilities of the airplane and crew.

We should mention, too, that the temperature in Dubai was approaching 50 degrees Celsius. Airplanes do not perform as robustly in hot weather. A go-around maneuver, by itself, and even in 50-degree conditions, should have been routine and straightforward, but a combination emerges: unstable weather and windshear, a go-around, and scorching hot temperatures. Could these factors have come together in exactly the wrong way at exactly the wrong time? Did crew error play a role as well? Or was it something totally unrelated?

Little is known for certain. Media access is tightly controlled in the United Arab Emirates, and authorities there are unlikely to be forthcoming. So far we’ve been told very little. (Oddly, too, the story has been strangely buried in most media outlets. I can’t help comparing to the 2013 Asiana 777 crash-landing and fire in San Francisco, which was a circus of coverage for the better part of two days.)

Regardless of the cause, one of the more disturbing aspects of the accident was the behavior of many passengers. All 280 customers made it out alive — somewhat in spite of themselves. Looking at the photos and video footage, dozens of people can be seen leaving the burning aircraft with their carry-on bags. This has become distressingly normal in runway evacuation incidents, and I cannot overemphasize how dangerous it is. In a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death, luggage slows people down and clogs the aisles and exit points. Also, those escape slides are very high and very steep, turning your laptop or roll-aboard into a deadly, high-speed projectile. To see so many passengers fleeing with heavy carry-ons is especially jarring in this case, because obviously this was no precautionary thing. The plane was on fire!

Airlines need to better emphasize this in their safety briefings, and the briefings themselves need to be much, much shorter, focusing on a few critical items, including this one. People have proposed different ideas, from restricting the number of carry-ons to locking the overhead bins during arrival and departure. Ultimately, though, it comes down to passenger awareness. Hopefully, that awareness will not come as the result of hand luggage contributing to a tragedy.

Passenger recklessness aside, this was the latest of a number of takeoff and landing incidents that, while serious, have been fatality-free or otherwise mostly survivable. If this is a new normal, it’s mostly a good thing. In decades past, large-scale catastrophes with hundreds dead were the norm, sometimes occurring a dozen times or more times in a given year. What happened in Dubai was terrible, but in a way it’s a testament to how safe flying has become. We don’t see nearly as many of those truly disastrous crashes as we used to.

Emirates is the world’s largest international airline, and largest operator of the 777, with approximately 170 of the jets in service.

More on this story as it develops.

EK521 3

EK521 5

 

Related Story:
DEADLY STUPIDITY. WHAT NOT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY.

 

Thumbnail photo: Reuters
Inside photos: Anonymous

Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!

Leave a Comment

Maximum 1500 characters. Watch your spelling and grammar. Poorly written posts will be deleted!

101 Responses to “Emirates 777 Crash-Lands in Dubai”
You are viewing newest comments first. Click to reverse order
  1. Joseph King says:

    Dan, I believe that brave young man died when a fuel tank exploded, killing him and injuring several others as well. From memory it wasn’t the concussion that was the cause but parts from the aircraft.

    More than happy to be corrected if I have the wrong info.

  2. Joseph King says:

    Can’t remember the flight number but I believe it was into Barbados where the passengers grabbed their duty free alcohol to accompany them down the slides. This resulted in lots of cut feet due to the broken bottles of what I can only imagine was a one of a kind, irreplaceable vintage beverage that those morons were carrying.

    I carry my passport in my shirt pocket and my wallet in another pocket. I hope the airline or insurance will replace/compensate my laptop and other contents of my carry-on because it SHALL stay in the overhead bin. When I was younger I used to wear a bum (Americans I believe call it a fanny pack) bag that contained other items that couldn’t leave my person. I hope that would not have jeopardised others safety if I had ever been required to use the slide.

    The other issue I have with the passengers of EK521 (and other flights as well) was the number of idiots who got out their phones to video the EMERGENCY “event”. It seems when normal thinking, intelligent people enter the cabin door, their brains instantly and automatically turn to mush. Eg. FA asks, “Tea or coffee” Mush brain answers “Yes”. True?!

    I was not an airline pilot but did rate a CPL with a multi ticket.

  3. Speed says:

    From Flightglobal …

    Emirates 777 probe yet to clarify go-around considerations

    Investigators found that a long-landing alert sounded in the cockpit just as the aircraft touched down on runway 12L, some 1,100m past the threshold.

    While the inquiry has not specifically stated that the go-around was triggered by the alert, it says the aircraft became airborne, during the go-around attempt, just 4s after the warning sounded.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/emirates-777-probe-yet-to-clarify-go-around-consider-429279/

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  4. chandelle says:

    Patrick, would it be correct to dumb down the essential difference between AP and FD as the former automatically doing what needs to be done as opposed to the latter telling you what to do?

    • Patrick says:

      Yeah, that’s not a bad one-line summary, so long as people realize we’re talking only about basic airplane orientation here. Which way to POINT the plane, in other words. Whether the automation is on or off, “what to do” will encompass a great deal more than that. All the autopilot does is let you take your hands off the wheel. You still need to tell it what to do, when to do it, and how.

  5. Gene says:

    Yeah, I can see that, speed turned into altitude. Biggest airplane I have time in is a DC-3, so a question on procedures.

    For a GA, do you just hit the button or is the procedure: hit the TOGA button, advance the power levers, pitch, flaps, gear? Or something different?

    • Patrick says:

      If both autothrottle and autopilot are on, hit the TO/GA switches, then manually retract flaps and gear.

      More commonly in a go-around, though, the autothrottle will be on, but not the autopilot. In that case, hit the TO/GA switches, manually retract flaps, slats, and gear, and ALSO manually pitch up and fly the climb, per flight director commands. Eventually, if you want, reengage the autopilot.

      Getting the autopilot back on is a good idea and makes things easier. (Though not TOO MUCH easier. You still have to fly the plane, and things will still be busy. Remember, autopilots are stupid; they can only do what you TELL them to do, and when and how you tell them to do it. This isn’t a self-driving car.)

  6. chandelle says:

    @Lee: Strange that you should say that. Every airliner I’ve been on – some 15, if memory serves – have unfailingly mentioned about window shades. I’ve not been on any European or North American airline, just those in India and the Middle East.

  7. Mitch says:

    Mr. Aimer, you describe the aircraft as “an old 777-300 with -200 engines” as if that made it defective. Not so.

    The original 777-300 a high-capacity regional aircraft. It was a simple stretch [31 ft longer] of the -200/-200ER, trading more passengers for less range. Only 60 were sold, the last one in 2005.

    The -300 was certified to essentially the same max gross weights as the -200 [660,000 vs 656,000 lbs], using the same PW, GE or RR engines [all around 95,000 lbs thrust rating], hence similar performance.

    The accident occurred at the end of a flight, so weight would been much below maximum, hence takeoff or go-around performance would not have been an issue.

    Not to be confused with the more recent best-selling 777-300ER, a very different airplane, up to 775,000 lbs gross weight and 120,000 lb-thrust GE engines

  8. Gene says:

    Hmm, one of the first things beat into my head when training in a Complex Aircraft (under the FAA Part 91 definition) was “Establish a positive rate of climb BEFORE touching the gear lever” when executing a Go Around.

    Can’t see where it would be any different in the heavy iron.

  9. Lee says:

    I don’t understand who writes those safety briefings. I’ve never heard one remind passengers to put their window shades up during take-off and landing. How can they be so ignorant as to not mention that and not mention that passengers must not take luggage during an emergency exit? They beat you over the head about smoking in the lavatories and the penalties but no mention of penalties for taking roll-a-boards or anything else down a slide.

  10. Lee says:

    I also travel with must-have meds. If they don’t fit in my pocket I would put them in a small bag with a shoulder strap and put the bag under the seat in front of me or in the seat pocket. Grabbing it in an emergency would not I hope endanger yourself or others.

  11. chandelle says:

    “None of those three things is a killer, so long as the crew is paying attention and catches the error…”

    Would that strictly be true even in the instant case where the aircraft is barely 25 feet AGL and having already touched down once, with the attendant ‘Weight-on-tires’ sensor kicking in, imposing its own set of restrictions? I thought that they had to do whatever they had to do, in terms of a go-around, when they were still on the ground following the initial, long touchdown, and not *after* getting airborne with airspeed rapidly decaying.

    Interesting that the jocks didn’t think that the length of 12L was more than adequate for a 773 to brake to a halt despite landing slightly long and with a tailwind; equally interesting that nobody has yet queried the ATC’s call on permitting touchdowns with a 16 kt tailwind.

  12. woofersus says:

    Regardless, its no excuse for endangering hundreds of lives in a burning plane. If your medications are so time-sensitive that you can’t possibly get to a medical facility from an airport in a developed country in time to stay alive, then you should probably be carrying them in a small bag or container that is attached to your body or that you can grab easily rather than fumbling in the overhead compartments while everybody behind your risks burning to death. And don’t tell me the concern is cost. We’re talking life and death here. (including your own – that medicine won’t help much if you burn to death) That stuff can be figured out later.

    I recognize that when you get in a plane you are assuming that there will be no incident and that it won’t matter, so you just do what is most convenient, but its irresponsible not to plan for contingencies if it may mean the lives of other people. There’s just no excuse possible that will make you a decent person if you risk the lives of all those people to get something from the overhead bin.

    If we’re taking the position that its acceptable to sacrifice the lives of others to save your own, then everybody else would be justified in beating you until they could walk past and get out of the burning plane. Frankly, if I thought my life was in danger and the person in front of me was trying to get their carry-on, I would likely forcibly remove them from that position for the sake of the rest of the passengers.

  13. MW says:

    Well, my prediction (below) that we’d get a broad outline of the accident event sequence in short order has failed. Either figuring out broadly what happened is much harder than I anticipated or the investigators are simply less keen on releasing early results than we’ve come to expect from accident investigations in ‘western’ countries.

    Note that I’ve never been expecting an analysis of causes nearly so soon as this, just details like whether landing gear was up or down, whether windshear was present at the time, whether engines were at go-around power etc.

    I suspect that uncommunicative investigators is the more likely explanation for lack of news. This isn’t a criticism – their primary responsibility is doing a good job of the final report, feeding the media progress reports is optional.

    I do wonder how these days air crash investigators can prepare for such major accidents. A few decades ago in a country like the USA there would be several crashes a year, and lead investigators could have been team members in a dozen previous investigations. Now a US air crash investigator might be on the team for an airliner-sized crash once a decade, and the UAE investigators I expect are even less experienced.

  14. CAG says:

    I think the carry-on issue is a side effect of the charge for checking bags, and offering a free gate check when the overheads are full. The number of carry-ons would be reduced if the federal government issued a regulation that the ticket price must include one checked bag.

    Of course, that would harpoon credit cards which offer a free checked bad as a perk.

  15. Dan says:

    Patrick, you should take a look at the Icelandair safety video, it took the opposite approach and was slower and longer, but I actually stopped to watch it.

  16. Stephen R. Stapleton says:

    Lee wrote: “What am I missing here? Is it so difficult to put critical medications in your pocket?”

    The syringes make doing so uncomfortable at best and often impractical in a tight airline seat. The supplier used to make a nice, portable injector with a dose in it that was built like a pen, so it was easy to hold a few doses in one’s shirt pocket. For reasons I don’t know, that version has disappeared from the market place. Instead I now must carry vials and they don’t do as well next to the heat of one’s body.

    Again, I don’t think you people all get what being so dependent on medication is like. Do you honestly believe we who are haven’t thought about all the contingencies. One emergency is all one needs to become panicky about the medications. If airlines had not acted like such total a–holes in the past, one might trust them, but they are clearly willing to do the most despicable and contestable things to save a dime here and a quarter there. Do you really, really expect me to trust them to spend real money to get me my medications?

  17. Rod says:

    Too bad it didn’t keep sliding right up to the gate.

  18. peter says:

    It is fairly evident from the in-aircraft video that the pax did what pax normally do when the aircraft comes to a stop. They got up and proceeded to get their baggage and probably expected to exit via a bridge. It looked that normal to them, there is no sign of fire or smoke in the cabin otherwise I doubt the video would ever have been made. Calls to evacuate down slides only came later and even then no fire had yet penetrated the cabin, which is part of the reason that everyone got out safely. The slides were not steep on this occasion since the aircraft was at ground level and that obviously helped too. It was a close call of course and perhaps even seconds later it could have been a different story.. They say every accident is different and this combination of events may never occur again.

  19. Rod says:

    Ross Aimer, when you say “dangerous scheduling of their crews”, do you mean having to spend such a long time on duty that they’re overtired?
    Anyway, high temp., low air pressure and possible tail winds won’t have helped, whatever happened.

  20. Ross Aimer says:

    I cannot speculate on what exactly happened in DXB, without access to DFDR, DVR and aircraft parts and systems.
    However I can speak to some facts surrounding this crash in general.
    We know the Wx at the time was 49C and QNH ,995 MB. This would equate to a pressure altitude of around 5000′
    My understanding is that this particular tail # was an old 777-300 with 777-200 engines. A very odd combination making it a very underpowered aircraft. Nicknamed the “PIG” among EK crews!
    There may have also been the presence of tail winds and LLWAS.!
    Boeing prohibits configuration change during a wind shear escape maneuver particularly in low energy condition like this.
    I am afraid Byron Bailey knows just enough to make him sound very ignorant of the 777. Boeing 777’s A/T, one of the most sophisticated systems on any aircraft, can perform a perfect TOGA, even after touchdown if done correctly.
    I am afraid EK will do their best to coverup important info implicating them! Such as dangerous scheduling of their crews!
    As for passengers selecting their bags over their lives, I recall an ONA DC-10 crash in Istanbul a few years back. The F/A’s were shouting commands in English to a load of Hajis from Jeddah, whom perhaps had never been on an airplane before and pushing them onto the shoots. Only to see them climbing back into the burning aircraft to retrieve their Holly Water!
    Sadly, todays passengers are not any better than those Hajis! No one listens to the safety announcements anyway!

  21. FSB says:

    re: Carry-on Luggage… How about equipping aircraft with emergency-lockable overhead bins?

  22. Jean-François says:

    I joined “Ask the pilot” two days ago and enjoyed the informed articles right from the beginning. Media are big in publishing accident/incident stories during the few days following such events, but follow-up info is scarce most of the time. This holds also true in the case of the 777 landing in Dubai, whereas “Ask the pilot” not only follows up on this event but makes an informed analysis of the known parameters and circumstances surrounding it in spite of the yet inevitably sketchy objective data available.

  23. debbie vowles says:

    Change the pre-flight safety briefing to emphasise bags should not be taken off in an emergency, and small items such as passport, credit card, mobile phone and medications should be kept in your pockets or in a small clear plastic bag in seat front pocket. These are the items which would be of most inconvenience if you actually happen to survive the crash and would make your recovery afterwards a lot easier. THAT is why most people try to get their bags off the plane. The message would eventually get through if all airlines put that in their safety briefing

  24. Mario A Leblanc says:

    EVACUATION SAFETY BRIEFINGS

    My suggestion is this :
    They should show to the passenger at the time of the safety briefing a short video with the screen divide in two.
    One side with actors doing the evacuation the right way with a timer working, showing how long it took to be successfully completed and on the other side, the same actors – passengers looking for their carry-on bags also with a timer in a situation of fire and smoke in an unsuccessfully complete evacuation for all because of the longer time.
    I can hear somebody saying that will scare the passengers. I don’t think so.
    A lot of people are visual. They need to see it. Perhaps it could improve the behavior of the passengers in this situation.

  25. nonoti says:

    Unfortunately, many things have to be invented to cater for stupid people.

    In this case, it looks like Boeing and Airbus and friends need to design central locking on overhead storage, that automatically lock-down the overheads in the event of a crash landing, fire, on any evac command.

    It should not be needed, but then again neither should signs at intersections telling people not to Tweet while crossing the road…

  26. paul says:

    “a go-around in these circumstances would require manually advancing the thrust levers.”
    It is a sign of the times how much effort is spent in the media and on various websites discussing the ins & outs of auto throttles, TOGA buttons and other automation GeeWizardry, when it is quite possible that this accident could have been prevent by a simple click-click, click-click ,”I got it”.

  27. paul says:

    “A total media circus ensued after the SFO accident, with “round the clock” reporting and “Breaking News” reports as much as 4 days later. There is very little info coming from any media source about the DXB accident.”
    EK is very good at shutting down negative publicity. Not sure how they do it, but threat of litigation probably has something to do with it.

  28. Speed says:

    FlightGlobal has some more information on the crash including information on TOGA activation as discussed in earlier comments …

    … according to Boeing flight manuals the take-off/go-around switches on the 777 are designed to be inhibited just at the point of touchdown, and a go-around in these circumstances would require manually advancing the thrust levers.

    There is also evidence that the gear was in transition when the plane crashed.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/analysis-emirates-probe-bids-to-unravel-landing-seq-428418/

  29. Wol says:

    Fine in theory, but fails in practice: What do you do about the (probably quite large) number of passengers who haven’t stowed their computers, bags etc when the lockers are, well, locked?

  30. David Walland says:

    As a retired H&S specialist, I find this retrieval of luggage to be an expected reaction, just as most people try to leave a burning building by the route they entered it. What is needed is psychology to deal with the problem, not smart technical fixes.
    People take enormous risks under circumstances like this. Many people have died in house fires, trying to save a family pet or a treasured possession.
    The notorious airline rules on lost and damaged property may also have a bearing. If you believe you’re likely to arrive at your destination broke and with no change of clothes and wait weeks before you get denied recompense…

  31. chandelle says:

    Msconduct, IIRC, the Manchester incident was on the rwy during departure. The takeoff was rejected. There was a Saudia incident at about that time when the flight landed back at Jeddah with smoke in the cabin but everyone still alive. By the time the ladders arrived and doors were opened, there were only cadavers inside. I don’t remember why evacuation by slides wasn’t resorted to then.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Msconduct, IIRC, the Manchester incident was on the rwy during departure. The takeoff was rejected. There was a Saudia incident at about that time when the flight landed back at Jeddah with smoke in the cabin but everyone still alive. By the time the ladders arrived and doors were opened, there were only cadavers inside. I don’t remember why evacuation by slides wasn’t resorted to then.

  33. Msconduct says:

    Whether you have life-saving drugs in your carry-on, or your passport, or a priceless heirloom, it’s all irrelevant if you can’t get off the plane. I don’t think most people have any grasp of how fast things can turn to custard. In the Manchester disaster in 1985, in which 53 of 131 passengers and 2 crew died, fire penetrated the passenger cabin within ONE MINUTE of the aircraft landing. Dense and toxic black smoke filled the cabin almost immediately (most of the casualties were from smoke inhalation). Things have been improved as a result of that disaster, but you never know what might happen – you may well have only seconds to escape. I agree with Patrick that leaving your stuff behind is nowhere near emphasised enough in safety briefings.

  34. Lee says:

    What am I missing here? Is it so difficult to put critical medications in your pocket?

  35. chandelle says:

    Mitch,

    Thanks. Would you by any chance have a link to a clip to demonstrate how a jock would use it? I’m assuming that it would, if at all, be used by the PF, not PM. I found these that I would’ve assumed are normal uses for this sort of thing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk6-GlfYIi4&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dOqsmqYVR8&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC2GQuNtcvI&feature=related

    If AI has intentionally deactivated their 773’s GMCS, it’d be interesting to know why! 🙂

    Linking a locking mechanism between the ‘Seat belt On’ switch in the flight deck to the overhead lockers might be something worth thinking about but IMHO, what’s equally dangerous is prohibiting the sale of alcohol in airport duty-free shops. Having all that inflammable alcohol sloshing around not too far away from the oxygen generators is another snafu waiting to happen some day during a violent spell of turbulence followed by loss of cabin pressure.

  36. Stephen R. Stapleton says:

    Yes, medications can be replaced, but can they be replaced in time? I have medications I need twice daily with dire consequences if I miss them. I keep some on my person, in my car, at work, in my briefcase, in my flight bag. Would the airline or some other agency in the Emirates be able to contact my doctor or pharmacy in California, particularly given the time difference, and issue me my meds before I miss a dose? I doubt it. I certainly would not like to bet my life on it. What about other things, such as durable medical equipment?
    I understand Patrick’s viewpoint and, for the most part, support him. A laptop is not worth risking your life, let alone someone else’s, life over. Frankly, if you don’t have it backed up, you are getting what you deserve. Meds and med equipment are a horse of a different color. I don’t think you people understand what not having one’s lifesaving meds is like. To be at the mercy of typically non-responsive bureaucrats, to feel like your every breath may be your last, to be scared to close your eyes even for a moment.
    If the overhead bins were locked in flight, I wouldn’t put my medications or equipment in them. What if I needed to access them in flight?
    Leaving behind your favorite tie is one thing, leaving behind your assurance of continued life is another. Everyone was able to exit that plane with all sorts of unnecessary items. Don’t ask me to leave behind my life because some idiot needed to bring along his duty-free purchases.

  37. Meredith says:

    Thanks Patrick for your objective reporting on this accident at DXB. I, too, noticed the stark contrast between this accident and the Asiana accident at SFO. A total media circus ensued after the SFO accident, with “round the clock” reporting and “Breaking News” reports as much as 4 days later. There is very little info coming from any media source about the DXB accident.

    I have a question for you about hand luggage during an evacuation such as this. What is the protocol if you are traveling with a pet in cabin?

    Thanks and greats posts coming.

  38. Muki says:

    As concerns carry on bags, it will be difficult for 100% of passengers even after preflight safety briefings to leave them on board because most valuable items are usually brought on board in the carry on bags. So as a reflex saving oneself can involve valuable items.

  39. UncleStu says:

    “Video somebody took on board shows that despite the emergency situation people were, yep, all stopping to get their hand luggage”

    Somebody inside a plane that – crashed – and was – on fire – was taking videos?

    WHAT???

    Is there no end to human stupidity? (Don’t bother answering that. Clearly there is no end to human stupidity.)

  40. Doc Holliday says:

    Having worked in consulting on human factors and ‘warnings’ with several Ph.D.’s in the field, I learned one thing: When you start repeating or constantly keeping notices in front of people they completely lose their effectiveness. I’ve seen cases where a worker stuck their hand into a bead blaster and another who climbed into a veneer making machine, despite warnings placed all over and around the openings-even lockouts. These same warnings had been in place for YEARS.

    You can post/report all the warnings you want, after about the 5th time they won’t be seen/heard. They have to be constantly changing and in different places. Anything to make the announcements different. Of course, this threatens profit margins so it won’t be done.

    People are already dying from this practice. I think, like the poster above, it will take a huge tort judgment to get airlines to address them. Even then the human factors problems will always be there.

    I like the idea of locking overhead storage compartments that activate when the aircraft flies into the ‘crash envelop.’

  41. Jim Houghton says:

    Locking overhead bins on departure and arrival. Absolutely. Might be an expensive retrofit, but if they start making it standard equipment today…

  42. Katherine says:

    James, medications are replaceable. Your friend’s life, or the other lives he cuts short by grabbing his carry-on and slowing down an evacuation are not.

    My last comment was meant in reply to Dave, below.

  43. Katherine says:

    Yes. If you want to survive in an emergency like this you must do anything to get out of the plane in short order. That includes climbing over the backs of seats if the aisle is blocked and knocking down fellow passengers who are idiotically trying to grab their carry-on baggage. That is the harsh truth, I’m afraid.

  44. James says:

    One thought — medications. I have a friend with AIDS who is required to take certain medications at certain times of the day. When he travels, the medications are in his carry-on bag.

  45. Mitch says:

    Chandelle, the 777’s GMCS display is on the lower center LCD, not on the glareshield. It is to be glanced at momentarily, not stared at. I don’t have any Airbus info, but the GMCS is standard equipment on all 777-300’s and -300ER’s. Air India has 777-300ER’s, but perhaps they may have obtained local approval to deactivate their airplanes’ GMCS’s.

    One way to discourage large or heavy carry-ons would be to reward passengers for checking bags, not penalizing them. But then the airlines would lose all that yummy revenue from checked-bag fees. G-d forbid there should ever be fatalities from passengers retrieving their bags, but someday an aggressive torts lawyer is going to nail a major airline for creating excessive carry-ons by charging too much to check bags.

  46. Dave says:

    In one of the videos there was a gentlemen almost calmly getting his luggage out of the overhead bin like it was a normal deplaning.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of the retired FA inspector. I am 6’1″ and 245 lbs, if you are blocking my family and I during an emergency, you will simply(and quickly) moved out of my way!

  47. Roger Wolff says:

    Raoul, If planes are equipped with a “lock all overhead bins” mechanism and if that is activated during the critical phases of the flight and when the safety briefing talks about this, then people who fly more than once (and most of the others) will know that they cannot access those bins during an emergency.

  48. David McKelvie says:

    What annoys me is that 1) nothing will be done until there is a fatality from passengers evacuating with hand luggage in an emergency, 2) those killed will probably not even be the ones with the hand luggage but those stuck behind while the selfish ones grab their stuff. Locking the overhead compartments at take off and landing is an option (although cost of this will discourage airlines), but that won’t stop those who store luggage under the seat in front from taking it in an emergency if they so desire. Education seems to not work. Perhaps, after a death, they will lock overhead cabins, and they won’t allow baggage under the seat in front of you.

  49. Katherine says:

    Thanks for highlighting this. As an FA and safety trainer it was one of my nightmare scenarios….the most likely one to come true and kill a lot of passengers in an accident like this. Your suggestions are spot on for helping to ease the problem, but as long as heavy carry-ons are allowed in the cabin pax will always think their possessions are worth killing their fellow pax for, without realizing that’s what they’re doing. The airline industry is notoriously reluctant to do anything of substance to stop this from happening. I would suggest they run PSAs in every airport showing what can happen when an a/c is not evacuated in time because pax thought their possessions more important than their lives. But, as we know, that will never happen. I don’t need to go into the reasons why it won’t, do I?

  50. Rod says:

    If people are told clearly that the bins will be rendered unopenable until the aircraft arrives at the destination gate, your scenario lacks plausibility. Anyway, some lunatic hammering on a bin is much easier to shove along with the tide than a person actually unloading a heavy and dangerous object.

  51. Raoul says:

    Locking the bins will not improve safety. Think about it — people will still try to retrieve their bags. They just won’t be able to, causing them to heave on the bins in a confused and frantic attempt to save their valuables. This cure could be worse than the problem.

    Of course, the reason many people (especially in the developing world) carry so much on to the plane in the first place is because theft from check-in baggage is a major problem.

  52. chandelle says:

    Mitch, if a pilot needs to watch camera pix on the glareshield for the sort of positional awareness that you mention during a very crucial phase of flight, it’s hard to be respectful of him. By its very term, GMCS suggests that it’s best used for maneuvering the aircraft while on the ground – taxiing, turning or whatever. Furthermore, IIRC, camera systems on Boeings and Airbuses are an option that any airline can do without. All Air India aircraft are, e.g. non-camera flight decks.

    Among the super long aircraft, the A346 ought to be the top seed 🙂

  53. Seth says:

    Yes, bulkier/heavier items are a larger hindrance to an efficient evacuation but the size/type of the carryons is besides the point. People need to evacuate the airplane quickly in this situation. Any time spent looking for belongings to take with them will slow down the process. I can’t imagine if lives were lost and then we learned that some passengers spent crucial seconds collecting belongings from underneath seats or overhead bins.

  54. Mitch says:

    Pranesh,the 777-300 and -300ER have a Ground Maneuvering Camera System (GMCS), external video cameras that provide under-airplane views to the two pilots on the lower center multi-function display. At a glance both pilots can see exactly where the landing gear is relative to the runway. An example is on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk6-GlfYIi4

  55. Pranesh Dey says:

    Mark,
    I posted a link of an article yesterday (a couple of responses down). I think the article is by Captain Byron Bailey. I could open the article yesterday but can’t anymore (says subscriber-only). I’m not a pilot. In the article, nowhere does he talk of software logic. He speculates a different possibility. He talks of the difference between (if I recall correctly) a 777-200 and a 777-300 (the type involved in the crash), how it’s a very, very long aircraft (“70m of hardware behind you”, how rotation angle is different. He believes the Emirates flight was going around (probably from a low height). But just when the crew may have thought the 777 was climbing and selected gear up, still sinking at its own momentum, the 777 might have been done in by gravity (with the tail portion hitting the runway)

  56. chandelle says:

    @Mark: With due respect, what “Byron Bailey” has stated is tosh. If an aircraft’s design precludes the PF from firewalling the detent and taking off again upon realizing that he’s landed long and mightn’t get his bird to a halt on the tarmac, I wouldn’t want to fly in the airliner.

    Moreover, if I’m not wrong, most airlines require newly type-rated pilots to demonstrate proficiency through maneuvers like touch-and-go, chandelle, go-around and suchlike.

  57. Mark says:

    What do you think of the following theory made by a pilot in the name of Byron Bailey who used to be a senior captain with Emirates. The theory suggests because the wheels had touched the runway, the landing gear sensors told the autoflight system computers that the aircraft was landed. So when the pilot clicked TOGA, the computers — without him initially realising it — inhibited TOGA as part of their design protocols and refused to spool up the engines as the pilot commanded.

  58. Dan Ullman says:

    I am curious about how the firefighter died. No firefighter is going to go into the fuselage until the fire is out simply because they cannot due to the slides.

  59. Rod says:

    Passenger awareness may be the key, but how long should one wait for it to emerge? And even if it did, there would always be at least one bonehead blocking the way while trying to retrieve the supplies for his expedition up the Amazon.
    I think locking the bins at the same time they arm the slides is a great idea. Passenger awareness could then be concentrated on not leaving your nitroglycerin pills up there.
    Yes, there would be a weight penalty, but that’s life.

  60. Speed says:

    From FlightGlobal …

    OPINION: How to exit a burning airliner
    You have to wonder what sort of incentive is needed to spur passengers to evacuate a crashed airliner, if a burning wing is not sufficient.
    [ … ]
    Manufacturers can build a tough aircraft, but they can only go so far to protect its delicate occupants. For heaven’s sake, get out.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/opinion-how-to-exit-a-burning-airliner-428224/

    Change will require a disaster with casualties. When people understand that burning to death is likely they’ll leave their “valuables” behind.

  61. Chris Savage says:

    Stop roller bag and rucksack carry-on. The size and number of carry ons permitted today is ridiculous, and the airlines themselves are to blame, as they do little to control it. This should be monitored at check in and not at the gate. If you arrive at the gate with unacceptable-sized carry on, you check it or you don’t get on the flight. I have been flying for over 45 years and am amazed at the size of baggage passengers get away with in the main cabin….no room now for a jacket let alone a fedora!

    • Patrick says:

      While I agree that airlines are often too lenient when it comes to the number and size of carry-ons, the idea of eliminating roll-aboards is a nonstarter. We are far, far beyond the point where that might happen.

  62. chandelle says:

    Pranesh,

    No idea. It looks like the jocks lost it in the heat of the mo and probably retracted gear to reduce drag and aid their getting away. It evidently didn’t work. Since this would’ve happened over a very short window of time, there’d have been lots of frantic decision-making and throwing down the gear again may somehow have been forgotten.

  63. maria evans says:

    What an amazing find you are!! My husband has a pilots licence for recreational use and we argue every time we travel commercially. He absolutely insists my hand luggage complies with regulations, he always insists that passports, credit cards, are kept on my person, the only real essentials.
    Argument comes when other passengers travel with huge backpacks because they will not wait for luggage, I have even got on a flight with a huge tv.
    If airlines stop passengers from boarding with wheeled luggage, restricting size and weight this problem could surely be halved, there are enough check in rules, airlines just don’t enforce them.
    Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world but some personal responsibility would help us stay in it a little longer.

  64. blind-sided says:

    I strongly suspect they landed without the gear down.
    And that Emirates have gone into damage control mode and shutdown all publicity.
    There have been a number of stories published reporting that Emirates flight crews are severely overworked,
    and an accident of this nature was only a matter of time.
    Google “emirates overworked pilots”.

  65. propwash says:

    There seem to be conflicting reports on whether or not landing gear were down and locked. I’m not a pilot, but once a decision was taken to go around, wouldn’t proper procedure be to confirm positive climb rate before initiating gear-up? Is it possible that captain or f. o. prematurely selected gear-up?

    I’m sure Patrick can enlighten us further, but of course only actual results of investigation will confirm what really happened.

    • Patrick says:

      “…wouldn’t proper procedure be to confirm positive climb rate before initiating gear-up? Is it possible that captain or f. o. prematurely selected gear-up?…”

      Yes, and yes.

  66. Pranesh Dey says:

    Chandelle,
    Why didn’t the crew settle down on landing gears when the go-around didn’t work? How would a belly-flop help in such a situation?

  67. chandelle says:

    This was from an Indian pilot, waiting in the queue for takeoff at the time… “She (EK-521) was about 30/40 (ft) from the ground with nose-up attitude. Her attitude confused us. We were discussing this, and we saw she was struggling to climb (landing gear were down). At a point, the struggle to climb stopped, for a brief moment levelled out, and then slowly she came down”

    So it does appear that they weren’t going to make it, retarded the throttle and belly-flopped with some control, which ties in well with how it remained on the runway until the very end when the rudder would’ve ceased to have an effect on longitudinal control.

  68. chandelle says:

    My comment was in response to ‘Other Bridget’ but it appears, for some reason, as a disconnected, standalone post.

  69. chandelle says:

    Quite experienced in landings and TOs, if that’s what you meant. EK flies lots of short-haul flights in the Middle East, not just long hauls where you accumulate cruise hours more than much else.

    Btw, the FO was a Qantas jock on paid leave. Just saying.

  70. Retired Inspector says:

    Retired airplane inspector; longtime reader here:

    May Almighty God help me if I am ever involved in an emergency evacuation like this one. I will commit violence on any human delaying the evacuation by taking video, grabbing stuff from bins, or otherwise delaying me at all in any way.

    Promise.

  71. Mitch says:

    According to seatexpert.com, EK’s medium-range 777-300’s can have as many as 434 seats, 49 business + 385 economy. They also have a 3-class version with 380 seats, 18 first + 42 business + 320 economy.

    Either way, with 280 passengers on board, the airplane was far from full. However, the cheap seats are 3-4-3 ten abreast, at 34-inch pitch. The pitch is generous, but 10-abr on a 777 results in narrow aisles, not good for emergency evacuation.

  72. Aisle075 says:

    As far as I can see they weren’t “stopping” to take videoes, but with people blocking the aisle in front of them to get their carry-ons thereby threatening to kill them, they were heroically recording these circumstances in a way absolutely vital to adding data to such as produced by the flight recorders.

  73. JAMBrooklyn says:

    I was appalled at the passengers–it made my stomach clench to see them opening the bins for their luggage. People are oblivious. Do we know how long the evacuation actually took?

  74. Richard says:

    It could be argued that taking hand luggage with you during an emergency evacuation is endangering lives – which is a crime in many jurisdictions. Perhaps that should be enforced.

  75. Tod Davis says:

    A couple of ideas on how to deal with people taking stuff during evacuations.
    Firstly during the safety video/demo maybe they should encourage people to keep their wallet, passport etc on them personally so at least they won’t be tempted to stay back and look for them.
    Secondly fine the people who do take their stuff with them with the fine being the value of the items which they took

  76. Speed says:

    An ATSB report on the EK tail strike is available here …
    http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/1358013/ao2009012_prelim.pdf

    It is an interesting case of a data entry error by airline personnel causing what could have been a terrible crash with many casualties. It also shows how many different groups are involved in a thorough investigation and in finding a solution to prevent a repeat.

  77. paul says:

    Whatever the cause may have been, don´t expect EK to volunteer much info unless they can squarely place the blame somewhere else. Saving face trumps safety any day.
    When EK had a tail scrape on t.o. in Oz, their first reaction was not: what caused this, what can we learn from it and how do we prevent it from happening again? Nope, first reaction was to fire the (non-local) captain. When a (non-local) chief pilot said: “wait a minute, maybe we should talk to the captain, find out what caused it, what we can can learn from it and how can we – and other airlines – prevent it from happening again?”, guess what happened: The chief pilot got the boot, too.

  78. Speed says:

    From FlightGlobal …

    A key feature of Avionica’s design may have made the speedy data transmission possible despite the crash landing. Similar devices are programmed to begin transmitting data after the landing gear have touched the runway, Segredo says. The miniQAR MK III uses a proprietary algorithm that uses a mixture of parameters to determine when to activate the data transmission on the ground, he says. Emirates officials have confirmed to Avionica that the device worked on the crashed 777.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/emirates-777-sent-flight-data-after-crash-landing-428189/

    Weight on the wheels not needed with this system.

  79. Mo says:

    And some were stopping to take videos!

  80. Rod says:

    This would also be due to well-trained cabin crew screeching at passengers to Get the Hell Out. It is astounding how fast a sweetly smiling flight attendant can turn into a tormenting bully when things have to happen fast. I’ve seen it.

  81. Speed says:

    Aviation Week reports …

    Initial, unconfirmed reports claimed the aircraft touched down hard upon landing. Recordings of air traffic control communications confirm that Flight EK521 was on a normal approach and had not declared an emergency, but was told to climb to 4,000 ft. shortly before touch down for an as-yet-unknown reason. Around 20 sec. later, Flight EK565 (following Flight EK521 in the arrival pattern) was told to go around. Flightradar24 data suggests Flight EK521 re-initiated a short climb in the final moments of flight, but then descended again. The exact sequence of events remains to be determined.

    The weather reports for noon and 1 p.m. at Dubai International contain wind shear warnings for all runways, blowing dust and relatively poor visibility. Wind was predicted to be from 110 deg. at 21 kt. at noon, and for only 12 kt. from 140 deg. an hour later.

    From FlightGlobal reporting on liveATC recordings …

    While the recorded communications with Dubai’s tower controllers are largely indistinct, flight EK521 initially confirms a landing clearance on runway 12L.

    But shortly afterwards, the aircraft’s crew appears to state “straight ahead, 4000” – suggestive of confirming a missed approach procedure directing the aircraft to climb away on the runway heading to a height of 4,000ft.

    Apparently there are several videos on Twitter.

  82. Speed says:

    From today’s Wall Street Journal …

    Dubai authorities haven’t revealed what caused the accident, but Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said Wednesday that wind shear—a downdraft or sudden change in wind speed or direction close to the ground—may have led the pilots to abort a landing. The plane’s landing gear was retracted in a verified video showing the plane skidding to a halt on the runway.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/dubai-airport-reopens-on-restricted-basis-after-crash-1470301337

    Airline officials are usually pretty tight-lipped immediately after a crash.

  83. Speed says:

    Don Beyer wrote, “I think a US pilot flies 70-80 hours a month, with 100 being the legal maximum. So 800-900 a year. 1000 the legal max.”

    §91.1059 Flight time limitations and rest requirements: One or two pilot crews.

    (a) No program manager may assign any flight crewmember, and no flight crewmember may accept an assignment, for flight time as a member of a one- or two-pilot crew if that crewmember’s total flight time in all commercial flying will exceed—

    (1) 500 hours in any calendar quarter;

    (2) 800 hours in any two consecutive calendar quarters;

    (3) 1,400 hours in any calendar year.

    http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3efaad1b0a259d4e48f1150a34d1aa77&rgn=div5&view=text&node=14:2.0.1.3.10&idno=14#se14.2.91_11057

  84. George says:

    “…came into land at a speed of 155 knots (287 kilometres) and at an altitude of 1,475 feet before increasing in speed whilst continuing its descent, according to flight tracking website flightradar24. The aircraft reached a speed of 180 knots at a height of 575 feet, the website shows, before its speed rapidly declines, which appears to be when the incident occurred.” – http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/emergencies/what-we-know-so-far-about-emirates-flight-ek521-1.1873476

    What conclusions can be drawn from this? I’m guessing 575 feet is runway height.

  85. Msconduct says:

    Video somebody took on board shows that despite the emergency situation people were, yep, all stopping to get their hand luggage. They were incredibly lucky they didn’t have any fatalities.

  86. SirWired says:

    One thing that I think bears noticing is that despite all the griping about the alleged “unsafeness” of ever-increasing passenger capacities, every time one of these incidents occurs where the plane crashes and/or catches on fire, everybody keeps getting out before the plane is consumed.

    I think it’s a startling reminder of the safety of modern aircraft that it manages to avoid being consumed by flame until after all the passengers have safely deplaned. (And they manage to safely deplane, even after many of them are complete idiots and insist on lugging their carry-ons with them.)

  87. Interesting FlightGlobal is reporting that Emirates has a wireless upload of critical flight data that begins transmitting with weight on wheels. In this case FG says the transmission was completed in the minutes before the plane exploded.

  88. MW says:

    Investigators will likely have a good idea of what happened quite quickly (days or weeks, rather than months or years) for this crash. Data recorders should be in place and undamaged, all the significant players are alive and available to interview and the wreckage is available.

    Even if the broad outlines are quickly determined, a final report will take many months, and there is a chance it could stretch out – for example, in the Heathrow 777 crash it was quickly determined that fuel starvation was the immediate cause of the crash, but the cause of the fuel starvation took a long time to find.

    I see from video in the news that yet again people in a burning plane with other people queued behind them take time to retrieve their carry on luggage.

  89. Rod says:

    The Asiana 777 crash-landing happened on US soil. And was therefore by definition Extremely Important. Whereas this happened somewhere else.
    And yes, Emirates spends hugely on advertising, so one might think twice about featuring its misfortunes.

  90. Don Beyer says:

    I think a US pilot flies 70-80 hours a month, with 100 being the legal maximum. So 800-900 a year. 1000 the legal max. Wonder if that 7000 hours is lifetime or just on a 777. I’m not a pilot. Just an airline geek. Patrick’s both. That’s what makes him unique about his perspective compared to the other so called experts as seen on TV “News”.

  91. Don Beyer says:

    Emirates is growing extremely fast. They only fly the largest planes, 777s A330/340s and A380s. Wonder about the total flying hours of the two pilots. May be quite low compared to other airlines where pilots accumulate far more hours on smaller aircraft before they have enough seniority to fly a 777. It’s likely 15-20 years or more at a US or Euro carrier. According to Airline Pilot Central, five years to hold a Captain’s seat at Emirates. First year pilots are FOs. If what I said is invalid, Please reply Patrick.