Last Tuesday’s Etihad flight EY450 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney turned back to Abu Dhabi shortly after takeoff as the result of a problem with the Boeing 777-300’s left engine.
The plane, with 329 passengers on board, took off from runway 13R and climbed to 4000 feet when the crew encountered issues with the engine. They returned to runway 13L, and stopped at the end of the runway for inspection to ensure it was safe to allow passengers to disembark.
The pilot “apologized [to passengers] for “being busy” earlier” and limiting communication. .
One person shared the following details, reporting that they were a passenger onboard:
I was on this flight and make some more observations:
1. There was a loud bang & some vibration just at or after rotation
2. One panel of oxygen masks was released above row 24. A result of shock and a poorly latched cover, or a sudden change in cabin pressure due to the loss of an aircon unit (?)
3.It was immediately obvious that rate of climb was very low (or nil) & there was a brief slight left yaw
4. We spent about 3 minutes around 1500 ft while the airspeed slowly increased, maintaining runway heading
5. Then the aircraft climbed slowly to 4000ft, turning back to AUH
6. The landing was fast (210 kts, normal around 150) as you’d expect for an aircraft at close to MTOW
7. The landing was remarkably uneventful; some yaw, little else of note. The main tyres likely didn’t deflate until after the end of the landing roll; the heat from the brakes went to the wheels and melted the fuse plugs.
8. It is also of note that the takeoff speed was lower than usual (abt 190 instead of abt 210)
A 19 year old passenger onboard told The Australian that a flight attendant was screaming.
The student said “everyone was crying and screaming. Everyone was holding hands. The worst thing was the stewardess opposite me screaming and screaming.”
Disembarking an Etihad Boeing 777-200LR in Abu Dhabi, 2015
Etihad disputed this account.
“She was shouting ‘brace, brace, brace’”, the spokesman said, adding that this was “in accordance with our training and the safety procedures of most world airlines in such circumstances”.
You might expect the airline not to admit that this happened if it did. However eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, especially after traumatic events and especially when 19 year olds get to be featured in The Australian. So it’s not really possible to reconcile the two competing accounts, except by checking with others onboard.
Unless, that is, unless there’s video from inside the cabin of the plane. Which… of course there is.
And it seems to bolster the version offered by the airline.
The soundtrack records screaming, crying and wailing, some apparently from children or infants. It is interspersed by what seems to be both male and female voices calling “brace brace” at various intervals – none sounding at all panicked. Applause sounds (3.24 on the clip) when the plane touches down, followed by a quick message to crew from the captain.
Here’s the audio, as posted to YouTube: