Emirates A380 Completes Flight With Hole In Wing Root Fairing

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An Emirates A380 landed safely in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday after apparently making some or even most of the 13-hour flight from Dubai with a big ragged hole in its wing root fairing. There are various scenarios being described in media and social media, but all that has been confirmed is that the incident occurred in the air and the crew elected to continue the flight. The plane landed in Brisbane and ground crews shot cellphone video of a damaged main gear tire and the hole in the composite fairing where it would have been when retracted.

The incident has, of course, ignited debate on the pilot decision-making, fueled by some reports that the anomaly occurred as the gear was retracted. There have been passenger reports that the “loud bang” they heard happened much later in the flight. The A380’s sensor suite was apparently doing its job, however, because the crew told controllers in Brisbane they suspected they’d be landing with a blown tire and asked for equipment to be standing by.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I suppose it is possible that a blown tire on takeoff could have punched a smaller hole in the fairing and the “bang” reported later in the flight was another piece of the damaged fairing departing the plane.

  2. I would have to say that as long as the pilot was able to safely control the aircraft, and there was no passenger or cargo issues, along with the plane not spewing any fluids or having any other problems, he was right to continue flying. Now had that hole continued and or caused more problems, than he would have been prudent to put down. It’s a judgment call.

    • I agree. Along with the items Karrpilot brings up there is the issue of how much above landing weight the plane was after the crew realized there was an issue. The tire very well could have thrown some tread causing the hole over the wheel well. I doubt that area is pressurized. It would then not be unusual for that tire to blow out a few minutes later into the flight causing more damage. I used to test aircraft tires for what was BFGoodrich and you would be amazed at the damage a tire can do when it fails, even after the takeoff is completed and the tire sits unloaded and still holding air for a few minutes. Without a visual picture of what damage was done it is almost impossible to make diversion decision without other data coming from the aircraft computers. Thankfully the flight ended without further incident.

    • Depends on how sure you are that design protects against a blown tire.

      The DC-8 that came apart circling back to a runway in Africa after tire blew did not.
      (Blowing tire started a fire that led to major failure of airplane structure.)

    • I agree. If the pilot heard the noise and somehow knew the level of damage (not significant since the A380 was still operable) then he was right to use his ADM and continue. However, if I was in that situation and (more realistically) had no idea how much damage there was, it would be incredibly stupid to continue on and try to make the destination.

  3. Emirates could be more conservative that Qantas. If there was even one anomalous data point other than tire pressure on a single sensor, I am confident they would have turned back.

    There is a great YT vid showed an EAA member who’d taken great advantage of the video input options for his avionics screens. At little cost he has installed cameras (among other places) in the wheel wells that show the movement and state of all wheels. Forget 3 greens, you can watch all three wheels extend and retract. It reminded me of the thought years prior that aircraft could and should have cameras around the airframe as minor, almost zero cost additions to lights and other fittings. That emirates aircrew really should have had instant awareness that fairing damage had occurred. They wouldn’t have flown away from the best place for repairs.

  4. During my high school years (a long time ago!) I worked at a busy full-service gas station. Those were bias-ply tire days, and we changed a multitude of tires in spring and fall for summer/winter use. One day my friend and owner’s son was operating the tire changer while everyone else did the balance, removal and reinstall. An auto tire blew (no known reason), launched him across a twelve foot wide garage bay. He struck the exit sign above a man door, and landed on the floor – in his underwear! Miraculously, he was just banged up. Funny now but could have ended tragically. To this day I (kiddingly) blame his actions on that event. A lot of energy in compressed gasses.

    • SOP for the truck tires with a locking ring in the rim is to use a steel containment cage.

      IIRC biggest problem is corrosion.

      Need to inspect deflated and disassembled rim and ring, and scrap some.

  5. Since the Avro Jetliner, excepting the Comet 1, pressurized airliners have tear-stopping features in fuselage structure.

    Newest airliners such as 787 have more separation of key systems so a single failure does not take all ‘redundant’ systems out.

    Minor case was A32x whos nose tire lost its tread at rotation, crew lost all primary displays for a half a minute or so. Both IRUs were adjacent in the avionics rack, clever designers of that brand used a very high vertical acceleration as a monitor for circuitry failure, assuming level would not be experienced when airliner was intact. But whack of tread on fuselage created local forces that created it.

    • And there was the A380 that lost many systems when engine burst damaged wiring in the leading edge of wing. A serious incident

      Designers intended survival of systems but had not thought things through well enough. (And people complain about Boeing.)

  6. As for poor decision making for economics, I tell the story of an experienced airliner technician and trainer who was fired from Pacific Western because he:
    – authorized dispatch of B737 to High Arctic with only one radio working
    – authorized dispatch of B737 to Mexico without a working weather radar

    Good way to get airplane stranded for several hours. (While:
    – Radio and avionics tech flown to it, which takes a few hours.
    – Airplane waited out weather before crossing southern US on return, or had tech and parts flown to it or perhaps another airline’s staff could help for a price.

    In hindmemory, I am thinking that flight dispatch and pilots were not wise to accept the flight. (The offending mx tech was embedded in SOC to assist dispatchers and planners, and pilots in the event of problems during the flight.)

  7. I seem to have the belief that wings on airplanes serve not only as structural support for the aircraft…but also as fuel tanks…with pipes that lead that fuel toward the fuselage and engines and cross-feeds etc etc. I’d be very nervous about continuing….but cannot find fault with success of a crew who excersized their prerogative and judgment to have a successful outcome. Maybe they knew their airplane better than internet junkies? Maybe they consulted their ops chiefs? Maybe they had more at personal risk than those who sit on sofas and pontificate on the internet..?

  8. So many experts, so many conclusions, so few facts.

    I wonder why none of the people posting definitive conclusions and condemnations of the crew are employed as actual real-world professional accident investigators? Could it be because they are none of those things? It’s so much easier to bloviate online when your reputation and career aren’t at risk.

    You can be sure that none of the experts who passed judgement on this incident will return after the official investigation is published and own up to their incorrect conclusions. By then, they’ll have passed more judgments equally unfettered by responsibility on other incidents. Gotta keep that BS spreader moving ever forward.