Emirates jet tail strikes runway during takeoff at Melbourne airport

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

According to officials, an Airbus A340 jetliner registered to the Emirates airline struck its tail upon the runway as it took off from Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia Saturday. More than 225 people were on board.

Flight EK407, which had departed for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had to circle around the airport for 45 minutes, dumping fuel, before making an emergency landing.

There were no reports of injuries, although some of the runway lights were knocked out during the incident.

"It [the aeroplane] took off very steeply, the tail touched the end of the runway, and it went up, stabilised and came back," a Melbourne Airport spokesman told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

One passenger, Catherine Edmunds, described the event at terrifying while speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We did land successfully, thankfully, and the plane was surrounded by paramedics and fire engines. It was terrifying," Edmunds said. "I'd hate to go through it again."

The Emirates airline stated that they had dispatched a safety team to Melbourne to investigate the accident.

Aviation authorities from Australia also launched their own investigation. Ian Brokenshire, a spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, announced that "we will be looking at the flight data records, getting data off that, interviewing the crew, interviewing the company representatives, inspecting the runway and aircraft."

The plane's passengers were given alternate flights to Dubai.