An Emirates Boeing 777 heading for San Francisco ended up diverting to a series of different airports in Russia, due to a control problem incident.
It is not unusual for a flight to have to divert, after facing difficulties. But in most cases, flights divert just once. But as crews evaluate a developing issue, their needs can change. Often, company considerations can affect crews’ decisions as well. The urgency of the issue will dictate how the crew prioritizes these considerations.
This incident happened on the 18th of January, involving a Boeing 777, belonging to Emirates. Flight EK-225 originated at the airline’s base in Dubai International (OMDB) in the United Arab Emirates. Its destination was San Francisco International (KSFO) in the United States. The two airports are on opposite sides of the globe, making this a polar flight.
So the flight headed north after departing Dubai at 8:45 am local time. The incident happened nearly seven hours into the Emirates flight when the 777 was over the Barents Sea. At this time, the crew reported that they needed to divert because of control problems with the aircraft. The aircraft was approximately 750 nautical miles northeast of Murmansk Airport (ULMM), which is where the crew decided to divert.
Emirates 777 Incident – More Diversions
The incident 777 made a left turn towards Murmansk, but 20 minutes later, the Emirates crew changed their decision. They would instead go to Koltsovo International Airport (USSS), serving Yekaterinburg, still in Russia. This airport was further away – about 850 nm from the plane’s position at that time. But half an hour later, the crew would change their decision for the third time.
The flight’s third diversion airport was St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (ULLI). Up to this point in the incident, the Emirates 777 crew had not declared an emergency. But they did so about an hour and 45 minutes after diverting to St. Petersburg. They also descended to FL280. 45 minutes later, the flight landed on St. Petersburg’s runway 28L.
The flight had 246 passengers and crew on board. However, it is not immediately clear how long they remained in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, this incident happened shortly before Emirates decided to stop some 777 flights to the United States. This was due to possible 5G interference. The airline also cancelled flights to San Francisco for the following two days. This coincidence made the passengers’ odyssey that much more difficult.
Emirates finally flew this aircraft back to Dubai today (21st), nearly three days after the original incident. This is a Boeing 777-300ER, with tail number A6-EQD. The airline took delivery of the four-and-a-half-year-old aircraft in June 2017.