LONDON – In the wake of Emirates’ recent in-flight incidents, we pose the following question: Will such safety concerns ruin Emirates’ zero-fatality record eventually?
Such an assumption is made based on 9 safety reports in nearly 18 years, cited by the Aviation Herald, which does produce some worrying perspectives on this, particularly in the description of the incidents.
This piece will take a brief look at these safety reports, as well as looking at Emirates’ safety record and whether recent events could hinder this record that the Middle-Eastern carrier boasts.
The 10 incidents that we think are of note will be issued via bullet points in order to keep things concise in the point of safety:
- April 20th, 2004 – Emirates’ Airbus A340-500 of A6-ERN overran the runway at Johannesburg by around 490 feet before getting airbourne – Captain who was in control used an erroneous takeoff technique that he had heard as a training tip for achieving accurate rotation (The Aviation Herald, 2006).
- March 22nd, 2007 – EK419, operated by a Boeing 777, attempted to takeoff from Auckland International Airport using flex takeoff settings. The crew had missed the NOTAM regarding maintenance works being done on the runway at the time. On departure, the aircraft engines were firewalled and were able to climb over the works (The Aviation Herald, 2008).
- March 20th, 2009 – A6-ERG, an Airbus A340-500 suffered a tail strike and overran the runway on takeoff from Melbourne, hitting the runway end lights and the localizer antenna past the end of Runway 16 due to the crew mistyping a 2 instead of 3 in the weight data entered into the FMS. Damages to the aircraft were repaired at a hefty cost of $80 million (The Aviation Herald, 2009).
- November 30th, 2011 – A6-EGG, an Boeing 777-300 operating EK409 from Melbourne, the pilots continued departure despite the runway lights not being on a satisfactory intensity setting – pilots should have rejected the take-off (The Aviation Herald, 2012).
- July 14th, 2016 – A6-EDM, an Airbus A380 instigated an approach into Melbourne and descended below the minimum assigned altitude of 3,000 feet MSL about 11nm before the runway threshold. The investigation identified a difference in the profile view of the approach charts used by Emirates, which may have contributed to the occurrence. Emirates in this case should have had the correct charts to avoid such an incursion again (The Aviation Herald, 2020).
- August 3rd, 2016 – A6-EMW, a Boeing 777 tried to operate a go-around in Dubai without thrust, resulting in runway impact and the aircraft was set on fire. The investigation determined that the flight crew had inaccurate situational awareness of the aircraft state and was unaware that the autothrottle mode had remained at idle after the TO/GA switch was pushed (The Aviation Herald, 2020a).
- September 10th, 2017 – A6-EEZ, a Airbus A380 operating EK131 into Moscow descended to 400 feet AGL around eight miles from the runway, which was too low, causing the aircraft to perform a go around. On the second attempt, the aircraft aligned with the extended runway center line but did not initiate the final descent and joined the missed approach procedure as a result (The Aviation Herald, 2020b).
- December 4th, 2017 – A6-EEU, an Airbus A380 operating EK207 into New York’s JFK descended below minimums whilst on the Canarsie approach, and was as low as 200 feet AGL and was too far from the runway, prompting the missed approach before landing safely (The Aviation Herald, 2017).
- January 9th, 2022 – A6-EQA, a Boeing 777-300 operating EK524 to Hyderabad was accelerating for takeoff from Dubai’s runway 30R when the crew was instructed to reject its takeoff due to a crossing aircraft. EK524 began their takeoff roll without ATC clearance, hence an investigation from the GCAA (The Aviation Herald, 2022a).
Zero Fatalities With Emirates… Should This Be Overlooked?
The reason why this topic hasn’t been brought up as much is due to the frequency of such incidents happening. It is only because of some recent events that this is coming up as a topic.
And it is also because of the descriptions in each of the reports, that can be conveyed as quite harrowing and worrying.
AviationSource approached Emirates for a comment on this, and a spokesperson said the following:
“Maintaining safe operations is a top priority at Emirates. We take an uncompromising approach to ensure the safety of our passengers, employees and operations across our network.”
We asked them questions about the integrity of their zero-fatality record and whether the airline has taken any further actions since the most recent incidents in Dubai.
Even after the crash of A6-EMW in 2016, there were no deaths, meaning that despite the fact the carrier “suffered its first major hull loss since it started its operations three decades ago”, the airline had been listed “as one of the Middle Eastern carriers that have not recorded any passenger death in 30 years” (Maceda, 2016).
So long as the incidents do not turn into fatalities, it is Emirates’ assumption that the zero-fatality record will be maintained.
With the likes of JacDec giving Emirates a good risk rating of 95%, and being “named the world’s safest airline for the second year in a row”, it does give some good arguments that the 10 incidents in the last 18 years were one-offs, especially with 18 years being a long time (Lim, 2022).
Is It Something to Be Concerned About or Not?
The fact that the airline is “operating more than 3,600 flights a week”, there would of course be an argument that such incidents are going to take place quite frequently (Morris, 2022).
As mentioned in the previous heading, it is concerning when you look at some of these reports. With some of them being from a while ago, it is to the assumption that Emirates would have made relevant changes as they have gone on.
But, we should be concerned because such errors are still taking place, offering the view that Emirates has not gone as far as is needed to prevent such incidents from occurring.
Better awareness when it comes to human error needs to be factored in, and Emirates needs to be at the forefront of this.
If anything, it’s very 50-50. The recent incidents in Dubai do not give much confidence in the industry at the moment, as well as what came from Alan Carter, the MD of SimUFly who expressed concern about Emirates’ training practices around a month ago via LinkedIn.
He said the following:
“Just been in the simulator with an ex Emirates B-777 skipper. Absolutely shocking what I’ve been listening to. The recent incidents and the truth behind them, plus the hushing up…..Emirates have serious, and I mean serious problems. But it’s actually quite scary.”
But whilst that doesn’t give much insight, it gives out a message. Something is going on, and sooner or later, as we do in this industry, we will find out what is going on.
What remains clear is that such awards for the safest airlines can become quite a lie, as what we have been seeing in the last few months with the Emirates incidents.
Even with the incidents noted since 2004, whatever is going wrong, Emirates just can’t seem to put an end to it. Whether that is from pilot error to potential technician faults, we will never know the full extent until it is too late.
As we have seen with the 737 MAX crisis from Boeing, all will be found out, and there is only so much PR that you can do before this all goes horribly wrong.
- The Aviation Herald (2006), Report: Emirates A340 at Johannesburg on April 20th, 2004, runway overrun during takeoff, near catastrophe, https://avherald.com/h?article=3dd14563&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2008), Incident: Emirates B777 at Auckland on Mar 22th 2007, flex takeoff despite reduced runway length, https://avherald.com/h?article=3f2c1551/0000&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2009), Accident: Emirates A345 at Melbourne on Mar 20th 2009, tail strike and overrun on takeoff, https://avherald.com/h?article=416c9997/0009&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2012), Report: Emirates B773 at Melbourne on Nov 30th 2011, Took off Unlit Runway, https://avherald.com/h?article=453ada03&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2020), Incident: Emirates A388 at Melbourne on Jul 14th 2016, descended below minimum assigned altitude, https://avherald.com/h?article=49b54d9c&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2020a), Accident: Emirates B773 at Dubai on Aug 3rd 2016, long landing, go around without thrust results in runway impact, aircraft on fire, TOGA switches inhibited, https://avherald.com/h?article=49c12302/0006&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2020b), Incident: Emirates A388 At Moscow on Sep 10th 2017, go around from 400 feet AGL 8nm before runway, https://avherald.com/h?article=4ae84b8a&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2017), Incident: Emirates A388 at New York on Dec 4th 2017, at about 200 feet in the middle of turn to Runway 13L, https://avherald.com/h?article=4b21e320&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2022), Incident: Emirates B773 At Dubai on Dec 20th, 2021, overran runway on departure, https://avherald.com/h?article=4f24b2d7 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- The Aviation Herald (2022a), Incident: Emirates B773 at Dubai on Jan 9th 2022, rejected takeoff without clearance due to crossing aircraft, https://avherald.com/h?article=4f30b5c8&opt=0 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- Maceda, C. (2016), Emirates’ safety record: Zero deaths in 30 years, Gulf News, https://gulfnews.com/uae/emirates-safety-record-zero-deaths-in-30-years-1.1873281 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- Lim, J. (2022), Emirates and Air New Zealand Top World’s Safest Airline List for 2022, AeroTime Hub, https://www.aerotime.aero/articles/29876-worlds-safest-airlines-airnz-emirates-airline-ratings-jacdec#:~:text=For%202022%2C%20Emirates%20Airlines%20was,airline%20with%2093.31%20per%20cent. [Last Accessed 7/3/22]
- Morris, H. (2022), World’s safest airlines: The airlines that have never had a single plane crash, Traveller, https://www.traveller.com.au/worlds-safest-airlines-the-airlines-that-have-never-had-a-single-plane-crash-h0w288 [Last Accessed 7/3/22]