Dubai Airport’s chief executive Paul Griffiths Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan / Gulf News

DUBAI – Investigators have recovered the “black box” from the wreckage of the Emirates Boeing 777 that caught fire at Dubai International on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the airport’s second runway reopened on Thursday, 29 hours after the incident.

The cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, commonly known as “the black box”, have been recovered by an accident investigation team from the United Arab Emirates’ federal aviation authority, GCAA, Dubai Airport’s chief executive Paul Griffiths said at a Thursday evening press conference in Dubai.

This allowed for the aircraft to be removed from the edge of the second runway, located on the Al Qusais side of the airport, and for it to be reopened.

“The aircraft ended off the runway threshold, so where it came to rest it wasn’t actually on part of the operational surface of the runway,” Griffiths said. The aircraft caused “very light damage to the runway”, he said.

The runway reopened at 5:45pm, however, the Middle East’s busiest airport will not resume normal operations for at least another 48 hours as it deals with a backlog of cancelled flights and delays.

“We are working very, very closely with all of the airlines, principally Emirates, obviously, flydubai and the other airlines to make sure this happen as rapidly, but also as orderly as it possibly can in the next few days,” Griffiths said, after thousands of passengers were affected by 242 flights cancelled and 64 flights diverted since Wednesday.

“It’s a very complex logistical exercise,” he said.

Emirates flight EK521 from the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram made an emergency landing at the airport 12:45pm on Wednesday before catching fire, according to the GCAA.

The 282 passengers and 18 crew members escaped before fire destroyed the 13-year-old Boeing 777. There were 13 people injured, including five fire fighters, five passengers, one police officer and one Emirates cabin crew member, according to Griffiths and Emirates. A firefighter died tackling the blaze.

Griffiths, who was out of the country and said he immediately returned after the incident took place, said he had spoken to Emirates president Tim Clark on Thursday “to work together on a schedule to recover as quickly as possible”.

At least 19,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday by the flight cancellations and delays, Dubai Airports has said. Meanwhile, Emirates said on Thursday that “so far” over 23,000 of its passengers had been impacted.

Asked whether the airport had made any preliminary findings, Griffiths said there would be “lessons to be learnt”.

“We will have a very detailed look at the procedures that we operated during the course of the management of the incident and we will adopt the lessons learnt. We will share them with our stakeholders and to make sure that our response is better if we ever have the unfortunate situation to deal with something in the future,” he said.