A crash landing by an Emirates aircraft at Dubai International Airport on Wednesday was the third emergency incident involving a Boeing 777 plane in less than a month.
The New Daily can reveal another Boeing 777 carrying Australian passengers was forced to make an emergency landing on July 11 in Minsk, Belarus, due to concerns over a suspected fuel leak from the right-hand engine.
And 15 days later, on July 26, another incident was reported by Indian media involving a Boeing 777-300 with 309 passengers on board.
The Dubai crash landing, which resulted in 300 people being evacuated from the plane as it erupted into flames, has prompted an investigation by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority.
Boeing, which will provide a team to assist in the investigation, released a statement saying it was “thankful all aboard were evacuated safely”.
Firefighter Jasim Issa Mohammed Hassan was killed battling the blaze.
A co-pilot from Sydney and another Australian passenger escaped the burning plane, which had performed a normal approach but attempted to change direction at a low height.
“The aircraft however did not climb, but after retracting the gear touched down on the runway and burst into flames,” a report on industry forum The Aviation Herald said.
The right engine detached from the body of the plane and the roof of the aircraft was gutted by fire before emergency workers were able to extinguish it.
Three emergency landings in a month
The crash was the third incident involving one of the American airplane manufacturer’s best-selling 777 planes in four weeks.
The July 11 flight, a Cathay Pacific service from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, was grounded for nearly 10 hours in Minsk. Passengers were forced to wait on the plane while a replacement Boeing 777-300ER was flown from London.
The July 26 incident reported by Indian media involved another Emirates flight, from Dubai to Male. It was reportedly forced to divert via Mumbai after smoke was detected on board. No one was hurt.
“Full emergency was declared at 1359 hours for flight EK 652 which was diverted to Mumbai,” a Mumbai International Airport spokesperson told The Hindu at the time. “The Boeing 777-300 aircraft was diverted due to smoke observed on board.”
A spokesperson for the airline told Emirates 24/7: “Emirates can confirm that flight EK652 from Dubai to Male was diverted to Mumbai due to a technical fault,”
One of the safest aircraft in the world
Boeing’s 777 range is popular with commercial airlines due to its size, long-range capabilities and reduced costs.
“No one likes to do layovers anymore,” Mr Ron Bishop, who lectures in aviation at Central Queensland University, told The New Daily.
“The 777 has the big engines that are better on fuel and sleeker and it can carry close to the capacity of a 747 but it’s a smaller package so there’s less drag,” said Mr Bishop, a former US Air Force special operations pilot with more than 6000 hours of flying experience.
Airlines operating 777s include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air France, Emirates and United Airlines,
In 2015, Qantas revealed it was considering replacing the Airbus A380 with the soon-to-be-released Boeing 777X.
The 777’s safety record is impressive, with only three fatal accidents in more than 20 years of service, according to Airline Ratings. Of those three accidents, two were either the fault of crew error (a 2013 Air Asiana crash in San Francisco) or extraneous circumstances (Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky).
The third was the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
‘Maybe there is an issue there’
“From my experience it’s not if, it’s when,” Mr Bishop said of the recent spate of aircraft emergencies.
“One incident for every 18 million hours is not something to get worried about,” he said. “(But) if there’s one or two that are similar maybe there is an issue there.
“Thirty years ago we would have brushed it off but nowadays we are expecting it to not have any issues.”
The New Daily contacted both Emirates and Boeing for comment.