Passengers to sue Boeing over Emirates crash at Dubai airport

US lawsuit alleges defective design caused aircraft to lose height in aborted landing

Flight EK521 was carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew from Thiruvananthapuram Airport when it crashed landed last August.
Powered by automated translation

Passengers on an Emirates flight that crash landed in Dubai last year are suing the aircraft’s manufacturer, Boeing.

A law suit filed in the United States on behalf of 15  people alleges the crash was caused by an issue with the aircraft's design.

An Emirati firefighter died when a fuel tank exploded, and 30 people were injured, including four seriously. when the Boeing 777 from Kerala hit the runway during an aborted landing.

The lawsuit was filed in Chicago, where Boeing has its corporate headquarters. It alleges that a switch used by pilots to assist in what is known as a “go around” was defective in design, deactivating at a crucial moment, depriving the aircraft’s engines of sufficient power to get back into the air.

An interim report early this month by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority found that after testing: "Analysis of the data downloaded indicates that there were no aircraft systems or engine abnormalities up to the time of the accident."

Flight EK521 was carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew from Thiruvananthapuram Airport when it crashed landed last August.

Two aircraft had already missed their approach because of gusts of winds, an earlier GCAA report says.

The right landing gear of the Emirates 777-300 touched the runway first, followed by the left wheels three seconds later. The report says the nose landing gear remained in the air, with the wind direction changing.

The pilots then attempted to abort the landing, retracting the landing gear, but had only reached a height of 26 metres before the aircraft began to sink back down onto the runway.

As the passenger jet slid down the runway, the right engine broke free with  the aircraft coming to a rest with what the interim report calls: “substantial structural damage.”

All the passengers and crew were successfully evacuated, but nine minutes after the crash, the centre fuel tank exploded, killing Jassim Al Baloushi, a 27-year-old firefighter from Ras Al Khaimah.

The aircraft was completely destroyed by the fire, the first total loss in the airline’s history. According to the GCAA, 21 passengers, one flight crewmember, and four cabin crewmembers sustained minor injuries while four cabin crewmembers sustained serious injuries, including smoke inhalation. Eight firefighters also required medical treatment for minor injuries.

The lawsuit, filed by Wisner Law Firm in Illinois, says the passengers it is representing suffered “physical and psychological injuries.” They include citizens of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Turkey and residents of the UAE.

A statement issued by the law firm claims that a cockpit device deployed during take-off and go around, known as the TO/GA switch, was “defectively designed” because it was “inhibited or deactivated” for several seconds on the initial landing.

It claims that that this prevented power being supplied to the engines as the pilots attempted to climb back into the air, causing the Boeing 777 to fall back: “Violently to the ground.” The statement claims that there is no warning given to pilots that this could happen under some circumstances.

The wording of the lawsuit at Cook County Circuit Court contends that as the manufacturer, Boeing, handed over an aircraft and its flight operation manual to Emirates that was “dangerous and defective,” in those respects.

Boeing has said it cannot comment because litigation is pending.

According to the recent UAE interim accident report, the investigation has: “Identified safety enhancements related to the validity of weather information that was passed to the flight crew, and communication between air traffic control and the flight crew.”

It is also working to: “Determine and analyse the human performance factors that influenced flight crew actions during the landing and attempted go-around.”

A full report into the accident may take up to three years to conclude.


Update: Passengers have right to sue Boeing over Emirates crash, court rules