After discovering that one of its Boeing 777s took off from Dubai bound for Washington, DC too low and too fast – and at the end of the runway safety area – Emirates has begun an investigation into the incident.
One long-haul Boeing captain has been quoted as saying that the incident that occurred on December 20 was “very dangerous,” and that a catastrophe was avoided in a matter of mere seconds. One of the people who were on board at the time commented that it was a “terrifying” experience.
Before leaving the ground, the aircraft accelerated to a speed of at least 248 miles per hour, which is significantly faster than a typical take-off velocity, according to the data that was transmitted by the transponder of the aircraft. After getting airborne, the aircraft only managed to reach a height of 75 feet as it flew over the buildings, at which point its velocity had increased to 269 miles per hour.
After one of Emirates’ Boeing 777s, which was bound for Washington Dulles, took off from Dubai too low and too fast while also departing at the end of the runway safety area, the airline has begun an investigation into the incident. The image that can be seen above is taken from a playback of the departure on Flightradar24.
At some point during takeoff, Emirates flight EK231 apparently ran off the end of the runway and became airborne right at the boundary between Dubai International Airport and the city.
After reaching a speed of 175 feet per second, the plane with the registration A6-EQI, which was on runway 30R, then accelerated to 300 miles per hour.
According to the website Onemileatatime.com, which analysed the data provided by Flightradar24, the same service a few days earlier took off at 178 knots (204mph), then climbed at 190 knots (218mph) to 225 feet, and finally reached 750 feet at 188 knots. This information was gleaned from the data provided by Flightradar24 (216mph).
In addition to this, the early morning flight on December 20 designated as EK231 took off just 90 metres (295 feet) away from the radio beacon antennas that were located at the end of the runway, as reported by AV Herald.
In the aviation industry, occurrences such as this one are referred to as “flap Overspeed events,” and they can put dangerous strain on the aircraft because it is travelling at a speed that is too high for the flap setting. This is in addition to the obvious dangers that come with flying so low and quickly over buildings.
After taking off at 2:30 in the morning on December 20, the flight successfully reached a secure altitude and proceeded to Washington, District of Columbia without further mishap.
Prior to making the journey back to Dubai, where it reportedly went through a four-day safety inspection, it was inspected in Washington, where it was before making the journey.
A number of people who were either on the flight themselves or knew someone who was have expressed their opinions on various aviation websites.
One passenger wrote in the comments section of a God Save The Points article about the incident, “I was on that flight and let me say that was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced.”
On the website onemileatatime.com, Richard Guest made the following remark: “I am a very frequent flyer with Emirates and I am not at all a nervous flyer.” Due to the fact that the majority of passengers on this flight had previously boarded another aircraft, it is unlikely that you will be wide awake at 2:30 in the morning. I couldn’t help but notice that our rate of ascent seemed to be significantly slower than usual. It did “freak me out” a little bit, but all I could think was that it must be because the plane is loaded down with so much fuel for the 14-hour flight. I am aware that the Dubai to US flights takes off with a significant amount of weight.
“None of the flight attendants ever said a word to me (I was in First) about this, and I didn’t really think to ask in the latter half of the flight,” she said. “I don’t know why I didn’t ask.”
Another passenger shared their story, saying, “My husband was on the flight, and both he and the guy who was sitting across the aisle from him were terrified during take-off.” Even though everything seemed to be operating normally after takeoff, my husband was concerned that the engine had been damaged.
The accident took place on December 20, 2021, and prior to lifting off the ground, the Boeing 777 reached speeds of at least 216 knots (or 248 miles per hour), which is significantly faster than the typical take-off velocity (stock image of a 777 cockpit)
“This incident was very dangerous and could easily have led to the aircraft hitting a building or indeed the ground,” the Boeing captain, who has experience flying 747s and Dreamliners and who spoke to MailOnline Travel anonymously, said.
It would appear that the aircraft experienced a tyre Overspeed event as well as a flap Overspeed event, meaning that it was travelling too quickly on the ground for the tyres and too quickly in the air for the wing flaps that they had chosen.
“Taking this into consideration, going back to Dubai rather than continuing with the flight would have been the more prudent course of action.” Because the plane didn’t take to the skies for another four days after it landed in Dubai, it’s clear that Emirates believed it required a comprehensive technical inspection before it could be cleared to fly again. Therefore, it ought not to have operated the Dubai-Washington-Dubai route (which takes 14 hours one way) before the checks were finished.
Emirates has not provided an explanation for the incident, and a recording of the cockpit voice recorder has not been made public.
Because of this, the aviation community has been left to ponder the various possible explanations for the incident, despite the fact that there is one possible lead.
It is possible that before takeoff, an incorrect ‘target’ post-takeoff altitude was entered into the computer of the aeroplane.
The image above depicts the airport in Dubai. The accident took place on runway 30R, but the plane was able to continue its journey to Washington, DC without further incident.
Shortly after the incident, Emirates issued a crew alert in the form of a “Notam,” which stands for “notice to air missions,” to remind them not to set the altitude on the “mode control panel,” which is responsible for controlling the autopilot, to the altitude of the airport.
The following is an excerpt from what it said: “Crews are reminded that there are no… requirements to change the MCP [mode control panel] after landing or shutdown.”
It would appear that the aircraft experienced a tyre Overspeed event as well as a flap Overspeed event, meaning that it was travelling too fast on the ground for the tyres and too fast in the air for the wing flaps that they had chosen.
Captain of a long-distance airline flight
There have been occasions in which the “altitude window” of the MCP has been set to the elevation of the airport, which has the potential to cause problems during the subsequent departure. After landing or shutting down, crews are not allowed to adjust the airport elevation on the MCP.
There is a possibility that the previous crew shut down the aircraft with the ‘autopilot altitude target window’ set to 0000. As a result, the ‘flight director’ was put into the incorrect mode, which was maintain selected altitude’ rather than TOGA, which stands for ‘take-off/go-around.’ This is one of the hypotheses.
The “flight director” is a cross that provides lateral and vertical guidance on the “Primary Flight Display” (artificial horizon) screen in the cockpit; it indicates the pitch “attitude” that the aircraft should be flown at. To put it another way, the “flight director” is a simple symbol. And in this particular scenario, it’s possible that it was directing the crew to point the aircraft too low on take-off, rather than at the appropriate 12 to 15% angle of the bank.
The flight director does not control the aircraft; rather, it acts as a guide. Additionally, the autopilot in a 777 doesn’t activate until the aircraft is at least 200 feet in altitude; consequently, the pilots retain full manual control of the aircraft while it is taxiing down the runway.
However, the Boeing captain speculated that the pilots may have lost focus because of the peculiar computer indications.
He stated that the flight director bar should indicate the target pitch attitude for take-off and that it is the pilot’s responsibility to rotate the aircraft up to this attitude in order for the aircraft to climb away at a safe speed.
The monitoring pilot, who does not have their hands on the controls, will call out “Rotate,” and the handling pilot will then pull back on the control column to rotate the aircraft to the take-off pitch attitude.
‘If he or she does not call “rotate,” then the handling pilot should do it anyway as they should be monitoring aircraft speed during the take-off roll [the correct take-off speed is worked out in advance depending on the weight of the aircraft and the weather conditions]. My best guess is that the monitoring pilot “tunnelled in” on a distraction, such as the strange appearance of the flight director (again, my best guess is that it was in ALT mode rather than TOGA), and as a result, missed the necessary call of “rotate.”
There is speculation that an incorrect ‘target’ post-takeoff altitude may have been inputted into the plane’s mode control panel (stock image shown above) prior to take-off.
TOP TABLE: According to information obtained from Flightradar24 and made public by Onemileatatime.com, the flight that took place on December 20 was not yet airborne at 216 knots (248mph). This data comes from the same service as the previous one, but it was collected a few days earlier. Figures indicating the speed in knots are displayed on the far right, and altitude is given in feet in the column to the left.
He continued by saying, “It appears that once the error was identified, they were able to engage some suitable autopilot modes, climb the aircraft, and retract the flaps; however, this took time because the aircraft was travelling much faster than what would have been normal for the altitude that they were at.”
It is possible that some Emirates pilots have developed the “habit” of entering 0000 into the autopilot altitude target window as part of the process of powering down the aircraft. Why? Because everyone is aware that 0000 is not the correct altitude, it is likely that they did this because they thought it would be a good idea to prevent the next crew from making any possible altitude-setting errors.
“The problem is that if the setting of 0000 in the cockpit setup is missed, it has the potential to generate some dire consequences,” the pilot explained. The lesson to be learned from this experience is to always operate the aircraft in accordance with the standard operating procedures established by Boeing and Emirates and to never implement any procedures of your own, particularly in crucial areas.
‘Any airline pilot knows that if the flight director fails or gives wrong commands you just ignore it and fly the aeroplane,’ said a different pilot, who had previously worked for Emirates.
A representative from Emirates issued the following statement through a spokesperson: “We can confirm that a technical incident occurred on the departure of EK231 on 20 December 2021.” The flight continued without incident to its final destination, and after receiving the necessary clearances from the technical staff, the aircraft operated the flight back to Dubai. We are unable to provide any further comment at this time as the incident is currently being looked into by the appropriate authorities. The protection of people and property is of the utmost importance to our company and will under no circumstances be jeopardised.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States issued the following statement: “The FAA is aware of this incident.” Investigation duties have been delegated to the relevant civil aviation authorities in the United Arab Emirates.
It is the first of two incidents in Dubai that could have potentially disastrous consequences and which occurred within weeks of each other. The second incident occurred on January 9 and involved Emirates flight EK524, also a Boeing 777 bound for Hyderabad. The flight rolled without clearance while another plane was using the same runway to take off.