August 17, 2022

Goodness gracious — The Aviation Herald reports on something that looks scarier than it presumably was (or else I image the plane wouldn’t have flown for so long).

Emirates A380 lands in Brisbane with damage

This incident occurred on the Friday, July 1, 2022, Emirates flight EK430 from Dubai (DXB) to Brisbane (BNE). The 7,442-mile flight was operated by a roughly three year old Airbus A380 with the registration code A6-EVK.

The plane departed from runway 30L at Dubai Airport, and the 13hr34min flight was mostly uneventful, at least as far as we know. The plane initially climbed to 31,000 feet, and as it turned off more fuel, it eventually climbed to 39,000 feet. On approach to Brisbane, the crew advised air traffic controllers that they thought a tire had been blown on takeoff, so they requested emergency services to be on standby.

The plane landed on runway 19R at Brisbane Airport, and was towed to the apron. It was then determined that there was a huge hole in the left side of the fuselage, just underneath the passenger windows and behind the wing. Seriously, that’s a massive hole — just compare it to the size of the passenger windows for scale.

Major damage to an Emirates A380

There was also a missing bolt and cap on the nose gear, though an investigation needs to be performed before we know to what extent these two things are linked.

Emirates A380 with missing bolt and cap on nose gear

As you’d expect, the return flight to Dubai was canceled, and the plane is still on the ground in Brisbane (and likely will be for quite some time). Fortunately no one was injured, and passengers (and probably even the crew) had no clue what the plane looked like from the outside until they were safely on the ground.

What happened to this Emirates A380?!

It seems fairly certain what something happened either during takeoff or just after takeoff, that may have ultimately lead to this. As mentioned above, even the pilots allegedly suspected that a tire had been blown on takeoff. That’s not to say the hole was in the fuselage for the entire flight, though it might have been.

One commenter at The Aviation Herald writes the following (I haven’t been able to verify if this is true, but I think it’s still worth passing on, as it sounds believable):

I was on this flight sitting approx 10 rows in front of the hole on left side window. Around 30-45 mins after takeoff we heard a loud bang, I turned to my wife and said that whatever it was it would be stressing the pilots. Definitely didn’t sound like normal turbulence. The rest of the flight was fine, no funny noises that I could hear. Before we landed they told us we had to land on a different runway and get an engineer to inspect the plane for a suspected landing gear problem. Landing felt really smooth. Then with the engine powered down we had to be towed. So surprised to see a hole in the side now!! Thankful it wasn’t any worse.

On the surface, the thought of flying 13+ hours with a huge hole in the fuselage sounds terrifying. For that matter, you’d think it would have caused a huge amount of noise if it were there for most of the flight, but there are no reports of that.

We’ll have to wait for a full investigation before we can determine who was at fault, if the pilots followed procedures correctly, etc.

I’d have to imagine that if the pilots thought there was a huge hole in the fuselage they would have diverted immediately. Meanwhile if they just thought that a tire had blown on takeoff, then there’s not much benefit to returning to Dubai, since a ton of fuel would have had to be dumped, and a blown tire doesn’t pose any risk during the flight.

At the end of the day this is a just a testament to how well planes are built — the fact that the world’s biggest jet can land with a huge hole in the fuselage without anything serious happening is pretty amazing.

Bottom line

An Emirates Airbus A380 landed in Brisbane with a huge hole in the fuselage. As of now details of how this happened are quite limited, but I’m sure an investigation will reveal more details into what the root cause was, if pilots followed procedures, etc. Thank goodness this didn’t have a different ending worse.

What do you make of this Emirates A380 incident?

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