Nine days ago an Emirates A380 came within 400 feet of flying into the ground on an approach to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.
It was at night but in calm clear weather – the approach to 14R is over dark forested country. There were probably few lights until the last minute for the crew to actually see that they had descended to low.
Position and Altitude data transmitted by the aircraft’s transponder suggest the aircraft was tracking about 190 degrees magnetic when the aircraft initiated the go around at about 1000 feet MSL about 8nm before the runway threshold, which translates to about 400 feet AGL with the aerodrome elevation at 180 meters/592 feet MSL.
The airliner was an Airbus A380-800, registration A6-EEZ performing flight EK-131 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Moscow Domodedovo (Russia).
The plane was due to land on 14R but at 8nm before the runway threshold the aircraft had already descended to about 400 feet AGL.
The cockpit voice recorder will be very revealing if it has not been over-written. The crew must have realised their problem. They initiated a go around climbing straight ahead and crossing through the localizer to safe altitude.
The aircraft subsequently positioned for another approach to runway 14R, aligned with the extended runway center line but aborted this landing and joined the missed approach procedure as result. The aircraft positioned again for an approach to runway 14R and landed without further incident on runway 14R about 35 minutes after the first go around (from 400 feet AGL).
By all accounts this was an experienced crew – now suspended.
They must have been shaken up by the first approach and the realisation that they have been a matter of seconds away from disaster.
They must have also realised the extent of their error and the fact that there would be repercussions at EK management.
These inevitable thoughts must have been very distracting as they tried to make their second approach.
Moscow is a layover. Given the mental fragility of the crew it is surprising that they were allowed to fly the airliner back to Dubai the next day.
As always with an Emirates incident this was kept as quiet as possible. A few comments in pilot forums but not a mention in the faithful Emirati newspapers.
However with the story now in AvHerald questions will be asked about safety issues and pilot training at Emirates.
Emirates told The Aviation Herald on Sep 18th 2017, that the occurrence is being investigated by United Arab Emirates’ Civil Aviation Authority GCAA, the airline apologizes that due to the investigation no further details can be provided.
Emirates appear to have decided that there are issues among its pilots and has sent an email talking of the dangers of complacency.
As one EK pilot has noted Moscow was a serious incident and the message sentby management unfortunately does not bode well for the poor guys caught in the crosshairs regardless of their errors or lack thereof.
The same writer then suggests that it is a lack of motivation at Emirates rather than complacency that causes errors to be made.
Not unreasonably he suggests that Emirates needs to fight complacency through motivation.
Adding that “you do not do that by:
Downgrading 330 skippers due seat number change
Reneging on the Freighter contract
Offering more money to those outside the property than on.
Flying pilots to the bone for 5 years with a mantra – don’t like it leave
Discontinue Housing allowances for those planning to use it
Create a Punitive culture – final warning for operational errors over intentional misdeeds
Delay upgrade for 1 sim repeat – by two years
Neglect to write to the pilots and explain the current education allowance which has been done every July since mid noughties
Neglect to write the pay review letter
Let 100’s of the most experienced pilots go without offering a lifestyle roster balance
Fail to keep up with inflation, in fact fall far behind.
Fail to back a skipper over a VIP customer.
Lowering minimums to a regional level.”
Emirates has its issues – these are carefully hidden behind the depth of its brand marketing and a compliant media.
Addressing those issues will not be cheap but it is infinitely less expensive than the consequences of the erosion of skills and the loss of senior crew continues.
Long term investment is needed.
In the meantime there will be a GCAA led enquiry and no doubt some internal meetings at Emirates. Any public disclosure is very unlikely.