An Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo may have been damaged by a large drone as it was coming into land at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport on the French Riveria on Friday after a post-landing inspection revealed damage to a part of the wing that generates more lift while flying at low speeds.
Emirates flight EK77 to Nice made an uneventful landing on Friday after a six-hour flight from Dubai and it was only after passengers had disembarked that damage to the aircraft was revealed.
According to initial reports, engineers found damage to at least one of the slats on the right hand wing of the massive doubledeck aircraft.
The slats are moveable panels located towards the front of the wing, which are used to generate extra lift while flying at low speeds. They deploy from the leading edge of the wing to increase the camber of the wing and are also used to increase aircraft performance in gusty conditions.
Photos shared on social media show one of the slats removed from the wing with extensive damage, with the metal ripped and torn.
The eight and half-year-old aircraft has been grounded since the accident, and the return flight to Nice on Friday afternoon had to be cancelled at short notice.
The cause of the damage has not yet been confirmed but some local media report that a large drone flying in the vicinity of the airport may have caused the damage to the aircraft.
French accident investigators are yet to comment on the incident.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Emirates told us: “Emirates can confirm that flight EK 77 from Dubai to Nice on 18 August landed normally and passengers and crew safely disembarked.”
“Upon landing, engineers discovered some damage to a slat in the right wing, and the aircraft will remain on the ground to undergo further assessments. Safety is our highest priority and will not be compromised.”
Drones have become an increasingly worrying headache for airlines and airports, and irresponsible drone operators have caused entire airfields to shut down due to the risk they pose to aircraft.
Some of the biggest airports now employ sophisticated anti-drone technology to keep aircraft safe, but earlier this year, Dublin Airport was forced to suspend all flight operations for short periods over several days after drones were spotted in the vicinity of the airport.
In 2019, Dubai International Airport had its own spate of drone-related disruptions but the airport now has anti-drone technology installed across the airfield.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.