Did An Airbus A350 Cause Fatal Dubai Crash?

Just over ten days ago a fatal air accident happened at Dubai Airport involving a Diamond DA62. Unfortunately, four people were killed in the accident. However, it seems as though the culprit has been found, according to a new accident report: wake turbulence from a landing Airbus A350.

Thai Airbus A350-900 Wake Turbulence
Wake turbulence from a Thai Airbus A350 may have caused a fatal crash in Dubai. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia

The accident could have been caused by the wake from a landing Airbus A350. The downed aircraft had been undertaking work on runway 30L which has been closed for maintenance. As a fairly small aircraft, a Diamond DA62 would be particularly susceptible to wake turbulence from large aircraft. As such, the initial report from authorities seems plausible.

The accident

Initially, it was not known that two aircraft were involved in the accident. A Diamond DA62 was destroyed when it crashed while working at Dubai Airport. The aircraft was carrying out calibration work on the closed Runway 30L. However, runway 30R was still in use and lies just 380m away according to Flight Global.

The aircraft was registered in the United Kingdom as G-MDME. There were three British nationals on board, in addition to a South African citizen. Unfortunately, all four perished in the incident. The Diamond aircraft was owned by Flight Calibration Services who are based in Sussex.

Diamond DA62 Wake Turbulence Dubai Crash
The tiny DA62 likely didn’t stand a chance in the A350’s wake turbulence. Photo: Mztourist via Wikimedia

The initial findings

While the Airbus A350 link was not initially apparent, the initial findings looking into the crash seem to point the finger. At the time of the crash, a Thai Airways Airbus A350-900 was on approach to the open runway 30R.

The French BEA yesterday released a report that reads:

A Diamond DA-62 aircraft, registration mark G-MDME, was involved in a fatal accident while on approach to runway 30L of Dubai International Airport for a ground navigation equipment inspection flight. Video footage showed the aircraft encountered possible wake turbulence at about 1,100 ft, following an Airbus A350, which landed on the parallel runway 30R.

Now, usually controllers ensure that aircraft are separated sufficiently to avoid the effects of wake turbulence. However, since Dubai’s airport mostly sees larger aircraft movements, controllers may not have noticed the DA62’s small size.

What is wake turbulence?

Wake turbulence is the air displaced by an aircraft as it flies. Generally speaking, the larger the aircraft, the more turbulence it gives off. The wake turbulence stems from the tips of the wings and moves down and out. Given the small size of the DA62, it would’ve been especially susceptible to wake turbulence from a large aircraft such as the Airbus A350.

Wake Turbulence A350 DA26 Dubai Crash
Wake turbulence can be deadly. Photo: NASA

Pilots of small GA sized aircraft are typically able to avoid the turbulence by ensuring they stay above where the larger aircraft was at the same location. In the case of landing aircraft, this can mean moving the glideslope forward, and landing further down the runway. Unfortunately, it seems as though these pilots were not aware of the wake turbulence from the Airbus A350-900 besides them.

Have you been affected by wake turbulence? Let us know in the comments!