Australia’s close call: Emirates flight 407

During the night of 20th of March of 2009, An Airbus A340 was to fly out of Melbourne to Dubai with 275 people on board. The flight was to depart Melbourne at 10:25 local time and the flight time was 14hrs 8mins. As the crew prepared for departure, the pilots were busy in the cockpit preparing the plane for departure.

The first officer used the metrics for runway 16 on the electronic flight bag. With all of that calculated, they copied the data onto the master flight panel. As the crew discussed the instrumental departure for Melbourne, the EFP was handed over to the captain who typed the data into the flights computers as the first officer was communicating with the ATC about clearances they needed.


The Captain had finished loading the data onto the flight computer before they started checking the master flight plan to make sure everything had been done accordingly. The take-off weight was 361.9t but the First officer read it out as 326.9t. He immediately corrected himself and stated that the weight was 326.9t again. One tonne was added to the takeoff weight to account for any last minute changes. At 10:18PM, the plane started its push back from the gate( 10 mins before time).at 10:30PM,it was at the northern point for runway 1 6 ready to take off.

The pilots lined up and set their thrust to full thrust. At 10:31 they hit their Vr (calculated rotate speed). The captain called out ‘rotate’ and the F/O( first officer) tried to raise the nose up with no upwards pitch of the plane the captain called out again and the F/O kept trying. He pushed the nose full upwards and the plane pitched slowly upwards but didn’t take off. Noticing there was something wrong with the plane, the pushed the throttle to maximum and the engines reacted quickly but the plane was still on the ground accelerating and running out of runway.

It went through the stop way, an aggressive part of the runway but after three seconds of full power command,the plane was airborne. It was a close call so close that the A340 hit a light at the end of the runway and the ILS (istrument landing system) antenna for runway 1 6. The ILS of the runway no longer worked but the plane was airborne and they just had a tail strike so the pilots decided to land in order to assess the damage. The crew climbed to 7000ft above the air to dump some fuel so that they could have a safe landing mainly cause the plane was fueled with fuel enough for a 14 hour flight and was too heavy.

As they were climbing the f/o noticed the plane was not pressurising. The Captain asked the relief f/o to check on the checklist in case of a tail strike but the f/o couldn’t find it. The Captain declared a pan call and the crew selected 280t as their landing weight but this was still above the maximum landing weight but they decided to with it just in case they needed to make multiple approaches towards the airport. Meanwhile,the airport authorities were busy combing the runway for debris as they knew the damage of the tail was bad. The crew started their descent and as they passed 6500ft, a rumbling sound was heard from the back of the plane and a flight attendant said she could hear and smell smoke. The f/o stated they have an in flight fire and they needed to get down immediately

ATC cleared them down to 3000ft and gave them a clearance for landing on runway 34. Firefighters stood by ready just in case things went to the worst. One hour after the plane took off, it landed successfully with everyone safely on board. The tail was inspected and there were no signs of fire so it was cleared to taxi to the terminal where the passengers disembarked. As expected, the plane sustained damage. The service panel was dislodged from its position and the rear pressure bulkhead sustained serious damage too. Had the captain not commanded full power when he did,this would be another story.

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