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Emirates Flight Found to Fly Too Low On Departure

Pilots Believed AP Was Flying Departure Procedure When Actually in Shallow Climb, Found Investigators

An Emirates flight from Dubai to Washington last December has been found by its homeland's General Civil Aviation Authority to indeed have flown too low upon departure.

The flight rattled windows and drew attention as it left Dubai International in a shallow climb with its pilots apparently unaware of the issue. 

Investigators described the incident as "serious" in their preliminary investigation, likely due more in part to what it reveals about situational awareness in the airline's pilots than it does the probability of injuriousness on the ground. No injuries to the 372 passengers and crew were reported, and no damage to the plane nor contact with external structures was found. When completing the investigation the Civil Authority investigators were told that the pilots set the altitude to 4,000 feet in accordance with the assigned departure procedures. 

The aircraft, apparently unbeknownst to them, was not climbing to 4,000 feet, and it's unclear if or how the crew noticed the altitude discrepancy. Investigators found that the cockpit voice recorder for the flight had already been overwritten by the time they got access to the data, leaving much of the flight deck's happenings a mystery to them. The pilot flying said she had followed the onboard computer's directions during takeoff, although the flight data recorder shows a decidedly different flight track. A full report will be released with the root cause, and judging from current evidence - no small measure of blame for a complacent crew. 

FMI: www.emirates.com


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