This Article is From Apr 25, 2010

Nightmare on board Emirates flight

Kochi: A major air tragedy was averted on Sunday when an Emirates aircraft with 350 passengers coming to Kochi descended a few thousand feet after hitting an air pocket. The plane landed safely at Cochin International Airport. Many passengers were injured in the incident.

While flying over Goa, the aircraft hit an air pocket and dipped dangerously. Passengers fell from their seats and sustained bruises, cut injuries. However, the pilots managed to control the aircraft and land safely at Cochin international airport.

This is how one of the passengers recollected the ordeal. "Inside the aircraft everything fell off. It was a harrowing experience. We were terrified. For a moment we thought it was our end. My wife sustained head injury and got three stitches. Our baby was thrown off on the floor. Several passengers sustained injuries. Everyone was screaming and crying as interiors, panels fell off, wires came off," says Shibhin, one of the passengers on board the flight.

There are conflicting reports about the altitude at which the aircraft was cruising at the time of hitting the air pocket. Initial reports suggested the aircraft was flying at 20,000 ft and descended to 2000 feet. However, Emirates authorities have denied this, saying the aircraft was at 35,000 ft and had descended only 200 feet.

But sources say with the kind of injuries that passengers have sustained, and the fact that the plane was grounded clearly indicates that it could not be due to a fall of just 200 ft.  However, the matter is being inquired into by the DGCA.

In a statement Majid Al Mualla, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations West Asia & Indian Ocean of Emirates, said, "The aircraft encountered a short period of heavy turbulence. Of the 350 passengers only 20 sustained injuries and the flight landed safely in Kochi. All affected passengers were treated and have now been discharged. Emirates places the highest importance on the safety of our passengers and staff."

The incident has thrown up many questions regarding flight safety?

  • Did the Emirates flight from Dubai to Kochi dramatically lose altitude because of extreme turbulence?
  • Were the pilots in control of the jet on all occasions?
  • Was this clear air turbulence or did the pilots fly into a storm which was visible on their weather radars?
  • Was the Metrological Department briefing which they would have received ahead of the flight accurate?
  • Was the fasten seat belt sign on at the time the jet flew into the worst phase of turbulence?
Clearly the DGCA will have to find answers to these questions to reach a definite conclusion about what went wrong with the Emirates flight.