File photo of A6-EEU, the Airbus A380 involved in the incident. Image courtesy of Kohei Kanno.
Despite the fact that aviation nowadays is very, very safe, there are incidents from time to time that will raise eyebrows on many people. This isn't to say that aviation isn't safe; in fact, in the United States, we've just passed eight consecutive years without having a fatal aviation accident, according to The Points Guy. This is an incredible fact, considering that U.S. registered aircraft carry over 2.2 million passengers per day. In the event of an accident, however, numerous authorities from many different organizations are involved, and will work to figure out what actually happened in order to impose new procedures to prevent this from happening again.
On December 4, an Emirates A380 operating as flight EK207 (A6-EEU, delivered in November 2013) was performing the Canarsie approach to Runway 13L. Approximately three miles away from the runway, Air Traffic Control alerted the crew, saying that "You appear to be extremely low on approach." The crew immediately executed a missed approach, and performed a successful landing minutes later.
According to the Aviation Herald, "The FAA radar data suggest the aircraft was at 200 feet [Above Ground Level] at the lowest point. The Webtrak data produced by the airport authority show the aircraft at 338 feet [Mean Sea Level] at its lowest point." That's very, very low, considering that the wingspan of an A380 is 262 feet, meaning that if we assume that the lowest altitude of the A380 during its approach is between 200 and 338 feet, then the right wing, which was lower than the rest of the aircraft at this point, was extremely close to colliding with the ground. Furthermore, FlightRadar24's calibrated measurements indicate that the aircraft was at ground level during the approach itself, meaning that the aircraft was likely at a very low altitude for the ADS-B receivers to be measuring 0 feet in altitude.
Thankfully, a serious aviation incident was averted during this very close call. It's extremely fortunate that no passengers were harmed during the ordeal, and the missed approach resulted in a successful landing. However, it's imperative to figure out what actually happened during this incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Emirati authorities have likely begun an investigation into this incident, and will probably impose operational restrictions to prevent this from happening again.
This isn't the first time that an Emirates A380 has been so low on final approach. In September, an Emirates A380 was preparing to land at Moscow's Domodedovo airport when it, too, had to execute a missed approach because it was exceptionally low in altitude. The aircraft landed safely minutes later, and according to The Points Guy, that incident is currently being investigated by Emirati and Russian authorities. That being said, it's important to remember that aviation is much safer than all other modes of transportation, and it will continue to get safer, as authorities learn from mistakes made and impose safety measures to prevent similar incidents from occuring again.