Human error caused Emirates near-miss in Melbourne

Final report published on 2009 incident in which Emirates plane overran runway on take-off
Human error caused Emirates near-miss in Melbourne
Emirates Airline. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Andy Sambidge
Fri 16 Dec 2011 02:30 PM

Investigators said on Friday that human error was to blame for the botched take-off of an Emirates Airline plane from Melbourne in 2009.

A final report by Australian authorities said incorrect entry of take-off weight data resulted in the tailstrike and runway overrun of the Emirates Airbus A340 aircraft, adding that it was not a unique event.

Similar events continue to occur throughout the world, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in a statement.

"These sorts of errors have potentially serious safety consequences," said ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan. "It is encouraging to see the significant safety action that is occurring as a result of the ATSB's investigation."

Dolan was speaking on publication of the ATSB's final report of its investigation into a 20 March 2009 accident, when flight EK407, with 18 crew and 257 passengers, sustained a tailstrike and overran the runway end on departure from Melbourne Airport.

The ATSB found that the accident resulted from the use by the crew of incorrect take-off performance parameters.

The initial error was likely due to mistyping, when a weight of 262.9 tonnes, instead of the intended 362.9 tonnes, was entered into a laptop computer  to calculate the aircraft's take-off settings, the report said.

The error passed through several subsequent checks without detection, it added.

"We now understand what caused the error and why it wasn't picked up," Dolan said. "We also know there have been a number of other accidents and incidents that involved similar errors in a range of different aircraft operated by different airlines around the world."

He added: "A lot of work is being done to minimise the risk of similar events in future.

"This includes developing technological aids to assist flight crew in recognising both when take-off parameters are inappropriate and when take-off performance is degraded below a safe level" noted Dolan.

"The aviation industry as a whole realises the seriousness of these issues and is working towards a solution."

To stress that further action is still needed with technological aids, the ATSB has issued a safety recommendation to the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

A spokesperson for Emirates Airline said the carrier supported the safety recommendation outlined in the report. The findings had "highlighted "an ongoing industry-wide issue which, above all else, needs
aircraft certification authorities’ commitment to resolve," the airline said in a statement.

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