New Delhi: An initial inspection by India’s aviation regulator of the EmiratesBoeing 777-200 aircraft that encountered turbulence on Sunday found cracks inside the cabin.
Emirates flight EK530, carrying 350 passengers from Dubai to Kochi, hit clear air turbulence around 50km south of Bangalore at 4.14 am on Sunday, shaking it violently, slamming people not wearing their belts into the ceiling and causing injuries to at least 20 passengers and three crew members.
“There are cracks inside the cabin, which requires removal of panels to assess the actual condition,” said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This was the first (incident) of its kind in India with such an excessive load.”
The regulator’s team investigating the incident in detail will be headed by S. Durairaj, a senior air safety officer.
Close shave: Passengers from the Kochi-bound Emirates flight. At least 20 passengers and three crew members were injured on Sunday. PTI
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the UAE regulator, also classified the event as a “serious incident” on its website and said: “GCAA investigation team are coordinating with Emirates airline and Indian civil aviation authority to investigate the reason for the incident.”
The incident lasted about 15 seconds, the DGCA official said. The rapid “oscillation” that the Boeing 777 experienced could be one of the key reasons for the damage, he said.
Safety expert Mohan Ranganathan said gravitational forces could have caused structural damage to the plane, the extent of which depends on altitude and weight.
“The higher the altitude, the more risk there is of pressure on a fuselage—Air France AF447 for example,” said London-based aviation analyst Saj Ahmad, referring to the flight that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on 1 June 2009, killing all 216 passengers and 12 crew members.
Emirates said it would be taking the aircraft back to its base after the inspection. “The Boeing 777-200 involved in the incident has been cleared to fly by India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation and will return to Dubai today (Monday) with crew only,” said Majid Al Mualla, senior vice-president, commercial operations, West Asia and Indian Ocean.