As a commercially-rated airline pilot who reads accident reports, I always tingle when I fly on anything but a USA majors flight in less than perfect weather.
The recent Emirates 777 crash in Dubai is a case in point.
The airliner, with 300 people aboard, crashed into the runway with a sink rate of 900’/minute, and later the center-tank exploded, killing one firefighter. 22 pax and FAs were injured descending the slides (typically, several people are injured during a slide evacuation.)
It’s important for pilots to always be mindful that a landing approach can end in two ways:
Though it would take a lot of painstaking research to say where this particular flight started going wrong, we do know some of the links in the “accident chain”:
- wind shear from 8 knots headwind to 16 knots tailwind. Depending on when the pilots learned this, their spidey- sense should have been off the scale – ie. either requesting a hold, a go-around or another airport. I also wouldn’t use the autopilot in wind-shear because judgment is needed to manage the throttle in that situation
- long landing – aim point in an airliner is 1000′, but they had a 1,100 meter (3,609′) warning. If they couldn’t start a normal landing at 1,000′, it was time to seriously think about a go-around
- late go-around – if you’re over the runway at idle and 5′ in a wind shear with your gear down, you probably should just land. What were the pilots thinking here? Were they blindly following ATC or book procedures when they really needed piloting skill?
- late TOGA power – jet engines take about 6 seconds to produce useful lift, the pilots tried 3 seconds. Do the math.
- foreign airline and pilots – for some reason, they’re often not up to challenging weather. They seem to be more interested in epaulets than aerial mastery. I’d suggest making them fly this flight profile in the sim before graduation. Or is the extra $5,000 in fuel for a go-around a career-limiting problem?
Taken together, obviously nobody with a clue was in the cockpit that day. I would rank this accident as bad as the TransAsia GE235 “Oops, I shutdown the good engine” accident in Taipei.