Heavily Loaded Airliner Barely Got Off The Ground
An Emirates Airlines flight departing Melbourne's International
Airport for Dubai last month came close to tragedy, authorities
revealed Saturday. Investigators upgraded the classification of
what happened from an "incident" to an "accident."
Preliminary investigation details published by The Melbourne
Herald Sun said that on March 20, a heavily laden Airbus A340-500
(type shown above) operating as Emirates Flight EK407 barely made
it off the ground. The plane carried a load of 225 passengers and
about 350,000 pounds of jet fuel.
The A340 pilots apparently used all 11,500 feet of the runway
before rotating at an estimated 175 mph. The plane's tail scraped
the runway due to excessive upward pitch, producing a shower of
sparks and smoke in the cabin.
The plane staggered into the air, wiping out a 70 cm tall (2
foot, 3.5 inch) strobe light that was 170 meters (557 feet) off the
end of the runway, and barely cleared a 2.5 meter (8 foot)
perimeter fence half a kilometer (1640 feet) from the runway's
The report added the airliner took out an antenna and narrowly
missed a small building before eventually gaining more altitude. It
then flew over Port Phillip Bay and dumped some of its fuel load,
before returning to land at the airport over a half hour later.
Neville Blyth, a senior transportation safety investigator with
the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said the aircraft suffered
heavy damage in the accident. "It can't be flown again without
repairs," he said. The ATSB has released the plane to Emirates, but
it remains in a cargo hold at Melbourne Airport.
Blythe added, "It's a serious investigation. There are a fair
bit of resources being put into this one." ATSB investigators have
already examined the aircraft's flight data recorders and
interviewed the crew. The pilots have since resigned.
Australian aviation expert Dick Smith said, "It's the closest
thing to a major aviation accident in Australia for years. The
people (passengers) are incredibly lucky, it was an overrun where
the plane didn't get airborne." Despite the close call, no injuries
An Emirates spokesman said, "The report from the ATSB has not
yet been finalized, and as such it would be inappropriate for
Emirates to make any comment at this point in time."