Emirates EK 521 crash landing – A detailed technical analysis

Dubai Based Airline, Emirates was in the news recently after one of its aircraft crashed upon landing at the Dubai International Airport. Emirates flight, EK 521 crash landed at the Dubai International Airport after an uneventful flight from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India. The Aircraft was carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew members and all of them were evacuated safely from the aircraft before it burst into flames.

The event happened at 12.45 PM on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 and the well trained employees of the Dubai International Airport and the crew members of the Emirates EK 521 handled the situation brilliantly and professionally, as they followed procedure and evacuated all passengers immediately using the emergency chutes built into the aircraft and the airport firefighting crew started dousing the flames. A dubai based firefighter died while trying to fighting the fire.


Firefighters try to douse the flames of EK521 on Runway 12 L

The aircraft involved in the crash was a Boeing 777-300 which is a long range, twin aisle, twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing. Often referred to as the “Triple Seven”, it was the world’s first commercial aircraft entirely designed by computer. It was introduced in 1994, and has since been highly successful, bagging a total of 1590 orders. It is Filled to the brim with advanced technology and is the first Fly-by-wire aircraft from the Boeing stable, meaning that it can be flown entirely by the electronic devices and computers on board, without any necessary intervention from the pilots.


The Boeing 777-300ER when it was revealed by Boeing

The Boeing 777 is ETOPS 330 certified, meaning that it can fly for 330 mins on just one engine making it one of the safest aircraft in the world, since it can still fly even if one of its two engines shut down in an emergency. It has rigid and sturdier wings allowing it to withstand turbulence better than its main rivals, the Airbus 330 and 340.

In its 22 years’ service, the Boeing 777 has had a total of 5 hull loss crashes which is considered to be safe when compared to records of other aircraft, especially considering that at least two of those three fatal crashes had nothing to do with the airplane itself.

  • MS667: On July 29th 2011, a Fire broke out in the cockpit of the EgyptAir Boeing 777 while it was still on the ground and the passengers were boarding the aircraft. The fire was due to electrical fault or short circuit and resulted in electrical heating of flexible hoses in the flight crew oxygen system. Zero injuries and Zero fatalities reported.


    The Egyptair MS667 at the boarding gate where caught fire and burnt a hole through the cockpit wall(seen in picture)

  • BAW38: On 17th January 2008, the British Airways Boeing 777 flying from Beijing was about to land at the Heathrow International Airport in London, when it crashed Just before the Runway. Investigations revealed that the engines died at the last moment when thrust was required for landing because ice crystals in the fuel clogged the fuel-oil heat exchanger in both the engines. 47 injuries and Zero fatalities reported. The Heat exchanger in the Rolls-Royce Manufactured Engines were redesigned and fitted to all Boeing 777 aircraft in operation across the world.


    British Airways BAW38 Boeing 777 sits on its belly at the edge of the runway after the crash

  • Asiana 214: On July 6th, 2013, Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777, flying from Incheon International Airport and Flying to San Francisco International Airport crashed just short of the runway at the latter. The incident was attributed by National Transportation Safety Board investigation to poor airmanship by the crew, as the pilots did not follow airspeed orders given by air traffic control and approached the runway wrongly. 187 Injuries and 3 fatalities reported.

    Asana Flight 214

    Asiana Airlines 214 pictures after the crash

  • MH17: On 17th July, 2014, the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as an act of war. The plane, which was mistaken for an army transport aircraft, was shot down by Pro-Russian Insurgents using a Buk Surface-to-Air missile over the Ukranian-Russian border. 298 fatalities were reported as everyone aboard died.


    The MH17 Boeing 777 was reduced to Rubble

  • MH370: On 8th March, 2014, the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing International Airport disappeared mysteriously. The disappearance of MH370 with 239 people on board, is still unresolved, but may have been due to pilot suicide or hijacking. The possibility of a malfunction has not been ruled out, which, if proved, would make it the only 777 fatal accident caused directly by a fault with the airplane. 239 fatalities were reported.


    Debris of the MH370 reported to be found more than a year after it went missing.

Emirates has never had any of its aircraft involved in a crash before, and additionally, Emirates also has the largest fleet of Boeing 777’s in the world. Given that this aircraft has such a great reputation and Emirates swears by this aircraft, the question that arises is, Was the aircraft to blame, or was it pilot error once again?


A glimpse of a few Emirates Boeing 777’s at the Dubai International Airport

Emirates EK521 had an uneventful flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai with everything going as planned, including the approach to land at DXB, until the pilot announced that they had a problem with the landing gear and would be going around for another landing attempt, and the Air Traffic Control tower instructed the pilots to climb to 4,000 feet for another landing attempt after circling the airport, and the ATC also alerted the airport emergency services at the same time while instructing the other aircraft behind EK521 which was waiting for landing clearance to go around too.

At about the same time, wind shear was reported on the radar which is what might have caused the pilots to take the decision to go around.

Wind shear refers to a change in wind speed or direction with height in the atmosphere. 
Wind shear can also refer to a rapid change in winds over a short horizontal distance experienced by aircraft, conditions that can cause a rapid change in lift, and thus the altitude, of the aircraft.                                                                                            Making air travel safer,
 Many airports now have wind shear detection equipment near the ends of runways to warn aircraft if it is too dangerous to land.


Eyewitness accounts had suggested that the landing gear on Emirates EK521 retracted when the Go-Around attempt failed, causing the aircraft to crash land and skid along its belly which in turn caused engine number 2 to shear off from the wing, in turn rupturing fuel lines and ultimately resulted in the fire which destroyed the aircraft.


The Emirates EK521 (What is remaining of it)

Investigation into the incident is on at the moment, and the General Civil Aviation Authority(GCAA) is heading it. The GCAA is the body responsible for investigating all civil aviation accidents in the UAE. The GCAA will be assisted by Emirates, Boeing, and National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) which is responsible for investigating Civil Aviation Accidents in the US, but has assisted investigations in all countries whenever a big aviation accident occurs.

The Investigators recovered the Black Box (Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder) from the remains of the aircraft and will be analysing the same. The whole investigation would take between 3 to 5 months to complete.


Flight recorder or Black Box .The Rod in the front is a locator beacon for finding it. Contrary to the black box name these are bright orange to be easy to spot.

Until the Investigation is completed, the theory that would remain is that, ‘The Pilots were warned about the wind shear by the Low Level Windshear Alert System at the Dubai International Airport and they decided to go around and retracted the landing gear, at which moment the wind shear cause the aircraft to drop altitude in milliseconds, giving the pilots no time to react, resulting in the collapsed landing gear and the aircraft belly scraping along the runway, causing the fire.’


Low Level Windshear Alert Systems installed at strategic locations in major airports.

The Dubai International Airport resumed normal operations on Sunday, after more than 3 days of operating under restricted capacity, using just one runway instead of two due to the crash.


An Emirates Airbus A-380 Takes off from Dubai International Airport

Images Source – Google Images.

Information Source – Wikipedia, Team-bhp, Indian Express, CNN.

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