Delays, cancellations at Dubai airport after crash-landing

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and CEO of Emirates, listens to a reporter's question on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. An Emirates flight from India with 300 people on board crash landed at Dubai's main airport Wednesday, sending black smoke billowing into the air and halting all flights at the Middle East's busiest airport. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Delays and flight cancellations persisted on Thursday at Dubai International Airport, a day after an Emirates airliner suffered a crash-landing that saw all 300 people onboard survive while a firefighter was killed.

The cause of the crash-landing of Flight No. EK521, a Boeing 777-300 coming from the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram, also remained unclear.

The world’s busiest international airport issued a statement saying that it is running “under restricted capacity and has since continued to operate with one runway.” It said some flights were coming into the city-state’s second airport, Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central.

Several Emirates flights, as well as others from foreign carriers landing at the hub, were cancelled Thursday. FlyDubai, the sheikhdom’s low-cost carrier, said it had cancelled 20 flights.

Emirates said that 157 of the 282 passengers aboard Flight EK521 stayed in Dubai following the accident, while the rest remained in transit at the airport.

Five passengers who suffered minor injuries were taken to local hospitals, the airline said. A cabin crew member was hospitalized and was expected to be released Thursday.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and CEO, has met with all of the crew members involved, the airline said.

The airline cancelled 27 flights Wednesday because of the accident and delayed and rescheduled others, affecting travel plans for 23,000 passengers. It diverted 23 incoming flights to Dubai’s second airport, other Emirati airports in Sharjah, Al Ain and Fujairah, and airports in nearby Oman and Bahrain.

It is letting passengers affected by the disruptions cancel or rebook their tickets for free.

The airline refused for a second day to provide details on what caused the crash and what the circumstances were immediately before the plane hit the ground.

A problem with the landing gear appeared to have contributed to the accident, with images of the smoking plane showing it coming to rest on its belly. Emirates declined to confirm whether the landing gear had been successfully deployed.

Winds of 39 kilometers an hour (24 mph) blew toward the northwest at the airfield at the time of the crash-landing, according to the United Arab Emirates’ National Center for Meteorology and Seismology. There also were reports of wind shear, a sudden downdraft encountered by aircraft that can be dangerous, especially for planes near the ground.

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority, the aviation watchdog charged with investigating plane crashes in the country, issued a statement Thursday saying that work was underway to recover the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

The recorders, also known as “black boxes,” will be analyzed at its facility in the federal capital, Abu Dhabi. American and British investigators will participate in the probe because the Boeing plane was built in the U.S. and was powered by British-made Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines.

Chicago-based Boeing said it is prepared to deploy a technical team to assist with the investigation in coordination with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. It referred queries on the investigation to the UAE GCAA.

Investigators expect to issue a preliminary report on the crash within a month.

Records show Emirates leased the plane from Dublin, Ireland-based AerCap Holdings. A spokeswoman for the leasing company, Gillian Culhane, declined to comment.

Also on Thursday, mourners in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah buried the body of firefighter Jassim al-Balooshi, who was killed responding to the crash-landing.

The GCAA said he was killed in an explosion that happened while firefighters were battling the blaze.

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