Emirates suffered the worst incident in its 30-year history when a Boeing Co. 777-300 arriving from India crash-landed in Dubai before bursting into flames, with all passengers and crew managing to escape unharmed.
Everyone on Flight 521 from Thiruvananthapuram in southern India was evacuated safely, Dubai International Airport said in a statement. Television footage and newswire photos showed the aircraft slid to halt on its belly, with one of its huge Rolls-Royce engines detached, before quickly being engulfed in smoke and fire gutting the length of the fuselage. Emirates said via Twitter that 282 passengers and 18 crew members were on board.
The wrecked aircraft marks the worst accident for Emirates, the world’s biggest carrier by international traffic. The incident halted all flights at its Dubai International base, the world’s third-busiest airport by passenger numbers. Boeing’s 777 model is the largest twin-engine airliner in production and the most used wide-body. Emirates is the biggest operator of the plane as well as of Airbus Group SE’s A380 double-decker. The aircraft is also one of the safest, with only a handful of them having suffered irreparable damage since the model’s introduction two decades ago, including incidents caused by war or pilot error, according to Aviation Safety Network.
Emergency services were shown spraying the plane with water to put out a fire that ate its way through the length of the fuselage and removed the cabin roof. Passengers and crew hurried to safety down inflatable slides. Dubai airport is delaying departures until further notice. Boeing is standing by with a technical team to help the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the accident, the U.S. planemaker said on its website.
The aircraft involved entered service in March 2003, according to data from flight-tracking site Flightradar24, which said the plane started to gain altitude for a short while before crashing into the runway. The 3 1/2-hour flight started midmorning from Thiruvananthapuram on India’s southwest coast. Emirates serves the region mainly to ferry Indian workers to jobs in the Middle East.
The carrier said in a Twitter message that it’s expecting to scrap some flights during an eight-hour networkwide delay. “We do not have all the details yet” to provide a cause of the crash, Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a video statement. Dubai International Airport said via Twitter that it will resume operations at 6:30 p.m., with larger aircraft given first priority.
The worldwide 777 fleet totals 1,335 planes. Incidents in the past decade that involved the aircraft’s destruction include:
- September 2015: A British Airways 777 caught fire while beginning takeoff from Las Vegas for London; all 157 passengers and 13 crew evacuated safely. That incident was blamed on an engine fault
- July 2014: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 298 people on board on its way to from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down over Ukraine by a missile fired from the eastern part of the country, Dutch investigators concluded
- March 2014: Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 aboard, disappeared from radar over southeast Asia. While pieces of the plane have since been found along Indian Ocean coastlines, the hull has never been located
- July 2013: An Asiana Airlines Inc. plane flying from Seoul crashed while landing in San Francisco, resulting in two deaths. Investigators cited pilot error and cockpit design as contributing to the accident
- July 2011: An EgyptAir plane at the departure gate at Cairo’s international airport for a flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was heavily damaged by a fire blamed on an electrical fault in the cockpit. All 291 people aboard escaped
Emirates has built its business on exploiting the Persian Gulf’s position at the heart of intercontinental flight paths and the region’s oil industry, building Dubai into an airport that served 78 million passengers last year, making the hub the world’s biggest by international traffic. The carrier’s success has put pressure on earnings at European network airlines including Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.
–With assistance from Anurag Kotoky Nour Al Ali and Benjamin Katz
©2016 Bloomberg L.P.
This article was written by Deena Kamel Yousef and Andrea Rothman from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.