DUBAI • Emirates airline suffered the worst incident in its 30-year history when a Boeing 777-300 arriving from India crash-landed at Dubai International Airport before bursting into flames yesterday, but all 300 passengers and crew escaped from the burning fuselage, the authorities said.
TV footage and newswire photos showed a large plume of smoke over the plane, with the landing gear torn off and evacuation slides extended. Officials said one firefighter died while battling the fire.
Emirates said via Twitter that 282 passengers and 18 crew members were on board Flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the Indian state of Kerala. All were evacuated safely, the airport said in an e-mail statement.
A man waiting for relatives who were on the flight said he had spoken to them by phone. "They said they're safe and all right, but that they felt a great panic as the plane was on fire." Another man said his family had told him they were fine and there had been a problem with the landing gear.
Air traffic into and out of the airport was suspended for several hours. But Singapore's Changi Airport later said that all flights departing to and arriving from Dubai yesterday were on schedule.
According to air traffic control recordings cited by Aviation Herald, a respected independent website specialising in information on air accidents, controllers at Dubai International had reminded the crew of the Boeing 777 to lower the landing gear as it came into approach.
Shortly afterwards, the crew announced that they were aborting the landing to "go around", a routine procedure for which pilots are well trained, but the aircraft came to rest near the end of the runway instead, Aviation Herald reported.
There was no immediate confirmation on whether the landing gear was extended when the aircraft touched the ground.
The wrecked aircraft marks the worst accident for Dubai-based Emirates, the world's biggest carrier by international traffic. Boeing's 777 model is the largest twin-engine airliner in production and the most used wide-body aircraft.
Emirates is the biggest operator of the plane as well as of Airbus Group's A-380 double-decker. The Boeing 777 is also one of the safest, with only a handful of them having suffered irreparable damage since the model's introduction two decades ago, including incidents caused by war or pilot error, according to Aviation Safety Network.
The plane involved in yesterday's incident entered service in March 2003, according to data from flight- tracking site Flightradar24.
Emirates has built its business on exploiting the Persian Gulf's position at the heart of intercontinental flight paths and the region's oil industry, building Dubai International into an airport that served 78 million passengers last year, making the hub the world's biggest by international traffic.