A 777 crew had to abort their takeoff at high speed when the crew of another 777 was crossing the runway. But was this a runway incursion?

This incident happened on the 9th of January, involving two Emirates flights departing from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The weather was good, but the event took place at night, just after 10:00 pm local time. First up was flight EK-524, heading from Dubai International (OMDB) in UAE, to Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International (VOHS), in India. Its crew had lined up their 777-300ER with runway 30R, ready to start their takeoff roll.

The crew of the other aircraft would perform flight EK-568, from Dubai to Bangaloru Kempegowda International (VOBL) in India. In the incident, the tower cleared the crew of this aircraft to cross runway 30R from taxiway M5A to N4. But at the same time, the flight crew on the other 777 started accelerating down the runway. The point where the crossing 777 entered the runway is approximately 2,450 metres (8,038 feet) from where the other aircraft began its takeoff roll.

INCIDENT: 777 Starts Takeoff, Other 777 Crosses Runway

The paths of the two aircraft

The controller at the tower subsequently realized what was happening, and instructed the departing aircraft to STOP. At this point, the aircraft was doing at least 100 knots over the ground. One source suggests it may have reached 130 knots, in indicated airspeed. Its crew aborted their takeoff successfully, before the point where the other 777 was crossing the runway. They then turned right, on the same taxiway as the other aircraft.


777 Aborted Takeoff – The Aftermath (so far)

The crossing aircraft (flight EK-568) continued its taxi to runway 30R and departed normally. But the other aircraft now had very hot brakes. So its crew taxied their jet to a taxiway normally used by cargo aircraft and waited. They then taxied back to runway 30R. The 777 of flight EK-524 departed for its destination approximately half an hour after its rejected takeoff. Despite departing 50 minutes late, the flight reached Hyderabad just 11 minutes late.

INCIDENT: 777 Starts Takeoff, Other 777 Crosses Runway

This 777-300ER (A6-EQA) was the one taking off in the incident. Photo: Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0

It appears that the crew of the departing aircraft started their takeoff roll without clearance from the tower. The airline subsequently commented on the incident. Emirates confirmed that the tower instructed the crew of the departing 777 to abort its takeoff roll. The airline states that it has started an internal investigation into the incident. The civil aviation authority of the UAE has also opened an investigation into these events.

Some rushed to draw parallels between this event and the Tenerife tragedy. Again, we still have no confirmation of the incident’s details. However, this event happened during routine operations in Dubai, which is Emirates’ hub airport. This makes it quite different from the sequence of events that brought those two 747s to Tenerife (Mentour video link at the end of the article). Also, visibility doesn’t appear to have been a factor in the Dubai event.

Photo: Alf van Beem

We previously saw other cases where a crew had to reject their takeoff roll, in apparently similar conditions to what these 777 crews faced. And the same runway in Dubai was also the site of another recent 777 incident, that authorities are also investigating.