An Emirates Flight Nearly Crashed On Departure From Dubai – Then Flew All The Way To Washington

Last week Emirates flight EK-231 from Dubai to Washington Dulles “was accelerating for takeoff from Dubai’s runway 30R when the aircraft rotated for takeoff past the end of the runway” and the Boeing 777-300 (registration A6-EQI) continued anyway – all the way to DC. It even flew back to Dubai as scheduled, but the aircraft was then grounded for four days after it returned. The FAA is investigating.

[The plane] remained on the ground until accelerating through at least 216 knots over ground about 4400 meters/14400 feet past the runway threshold and about 90 meters short of the localizer antennas, was airborne at 75 feet AGL at 234 knots over ground already over the first residential houses past the runway (5640 meters/18500 feet past the runway threshold), then climbed out to safety.

Cockpit Of An Emirates Boeing 777

Apparently the plane “sustained some damage in the departure” though the specifics aren’t clear. Reportedly four crew members were terminated because of the incident.

Emirates sent their pilots a crew alert on December 27th suggesting the plane’s altitude setting was left at the airport’s elevation.

According to One Mile at a Time the aircraft’s nose pitched down after takeoff “to the point that the plane was at 175 feet and flying at 262 knots.” The plane “was descending right after takeoff, to the point that it was lower than many high rises in Dubai, and flying at a very fast pace.”

At Washington Dulles the aircraft was inspected for cracks and also checked for wing, flap, and landing gear damage before being allowed to return to Dubai.

Emirates Boeing 777

Notably this all happened at Emirates’ home airport where pilots should be especially familiar with every nuance of the airport and positions around it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Runway 30R is 14,275 feet, so this is saying they were 125 feet off the departure end. I’m not sure what’s in the departure end, whether there usuable pavement or not. Maybe someone who has piloted in there will comment

  2. Inaccurate info from the other blogs – no surprise from the first one which is always pining for headlines. Avherald reports it wasn’t an ‘airborne then pitch down’ situation, but took too long of a takeoff roll. So people weren’t on a plane that took off then stopped climbing, but on one with a really long roll. I’ll bet few noticed.

    “An Emirates Boeing 777-300, registration A6-EQI performing flight EK-231 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Washington Dulles,DC (USA), was accelerating for takeoff from Dubai’s runway 30R when the aircraft rotated for takeoff past the end of the runway and became airborne just at the end of the runway end safety area.”

  3. The 4 pilots assigned to that flight were fired. Mechanics have nothing to do with this incident. My understanding is that the previous crew set the altitude to the airport elevation before shutting down the airplane. The next crew flying it neglected to check this setting and that cause the “no climb” situation. According to another 777 captain who posted on OMAAT there are at least 2 instances where this should’ve been caught during the pre-departure checklist. Also, this would’ve never happened if the PIC didn’t engage the autopilot right after takeoff. Most US based captains (probably others around the world too) like to hand-fly the airplane for a while before engaging the auto pilot. It is very rare that 4 pilots missed this setting before take off hence all got fired. Thankfully they were able to continue and land safely in DC.

  4. Interesting because I flew in that exact aircraft registration out of Dubai to Geneva (safely) on Dec 28th.

  5. Perhaps they hadn’t set the flaps
    before their runway roll. They would have never admitted that fact.

  6. The end of runway 30R is all tarmac, it is not a gravel/grass area nor is it anyway close to the boarder of the airfield.

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