Investigators probing the Emirates Boeing 777-300 crash at Dubai have identified safety improvements in respect of weather data passed to the cockpit crew before the accident.
The review of the weather information has been disclosed in an interim update on the 3 August 2016 event, during which the aircraft – which touched down 1,100m long on runway 12L – failed to climb away during an attempted go-around and came down on the runway with its undercarriage retracted.
Despite substantial damage to the twinjet, and the outbreak of fire, there were no fatalities among the passengers and crew – although a firefighter was subsequently fatally injured by a fuel-tank explosion during the emergency response.
There were no abnormalities with the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines or other aircraft systems, the update confirms, and the inquiry is still analysing the human performance factors which influenced the crew’s actions during the landing and go-around.
Weather conditions at the time, particularly the wind situation, have become a focus for the investigation, which is considering not just the circumstances of the long landing but also the wind impact on the evacuation effort.
The United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority had previously determined that, in the 10min interval before the 777’s arrival, two of the four inbound aircraft executed a go-around.
After the missed approaches, the Dubai air traffic watch manager informed the air traffic co-ordinator of “unusual” wind conditions, adding that a windshear warning had been issued on the automatic terminal information system – which the 777 crew had received.
The watch manager subsequently discussed the wind conditions with the approach controller. Tailwind components were indicated on runway 12L and the alternative 30L but, while the conditions were seen as “strange”, says the inquiry, runway 12L was agreed to be the best option.
Some 2min later, at the same time as the 777 was attempting its go-around, the approach controller contacted the watch manager to inform him that a runway change was being initiated. The accident occurred 10s later.
The 777 had been subject to a headwind as it descended through 1,100ft but this started to change to a tailwind component, which gradually increased to a maximum of 16kt. But the wind direction began to change again, to a headwind, at a height of 5ft, just 5s before touchdown.
Investigators have “identified safety enhancements related to the validity of weather information” that was given to the crew, says the GCAA in its inquiry update.
It adds that it has carried out a “detailed examination” of the aircraft’s evacuation systems, including the operation of the escape slides in an abnormal aircraft resting position. This examination has included the effects of wind on the slides.
Wind conditions badly disrupted the evacuation by rendering some of the slides difficult, or impossible, to use.
Investigators state that the inquiry is still collaborating with authorities and other organisations to assess such areas as flight operations, training, procedures and the emergency response as part of the probe.