Six weeks after a small plane crashed in Dubai, killing four people on board, a preliminary investigation report released by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in the UAE yesterday said the aircraft followed preceding traffic on approach to the parallel runway at Dubai International Airport “at distances which were below the specified minimum separation, and less than the distances discussed during pre-departure”.
On May 16, the Diamond DA62, a UK-registered plane, had crashed close to the Mushrif Park, five kilometres south of Dubai International Airport, killing two crewmembers, a calibration engineer and an observer. The victims were identified as William Blackburn, Christopher Stone and David Philipps, all Britons and Fritz Venter, a South African.
The GCAA report said, “The radar monitor recording indicated that there was an Air Traffic Control (ATC) inconsistency in advising the DA62 of the expected occurrence of hazards caused by wake turbulence from traffic on approach to the parallel runway 30R.”
It said, “Based on these observations, the investigation believes that there is sufficient reason to issue a prompt safety recommendation to re-emphasise to pilots and air traffic controllers the importance of maintaining a minimum safe distance and issuing essential traffic information such as advising aircraft of the expected occurrence of hazards caused by wake turbulence.”
It said the DA62 aircraft had departed Dubai International Airport at 6.08pm to carry out aerodrome ground lighting calibration checks as part of the southern runway refurbishment project which had begun on April 16.
“The ground lighting check required the aircraft to fly a number of approaches to, and low passes over, runway 30L. The flights were conducted under visual flight rules.”
The report said at 7.29pm, when the flight was on its tenth approach, it was following a Thai Airways Airbus A350-900, which was flying the approach to the parallel runway 30R. “The airbus was approximately 3.7 nautical miles (nm) ahead of the DA62. When the DA62 leveled off after turning onto final at an altitude of approximately 1,100 feet and at an air speed of approximately 130 knots, it rolled slightly but recovered after nine seconds. Seven seconds later, the aircraft abruptly rolled to the left until it became inverted and entered a steep dive. The aircraft impacted the ground approximately 3.5 nm from the runway threshold. The impact was not visible to the runway approach camera.”
Giving details about the damage and wreckage, the report said the aircraft was not fitted with a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder. The wreckage trail of burnt and unburnt aircraft parts extended approximately 160 metres from the initial impact site, it noted.
Following the incident, operations at Dubai International Airport were suspended from 7.36pm until 8.22pm on May 16, with air traffic forced to circle above, and some flights diverted to the nearby Maktoum International Airport.
But soon after things were back to running smoothly. GCAA had confirmed the resumption of normal services at the airport, while offering condolences to the victim’s families and thanking police and ambulance services for their quick response.
In a prompt tweet, GCAA had also said it would investigate the accident to establish its causes in accordance with international standards and best practice.