My $0.02 on Air France 447

This latest disaster involves a highly-experienced flight crew. So far, the media coverage has focused on lightning and turbulence.

Can lightning bring down a jet? Yes, but that is not easy: they are designed to withstand lightning strikes. On the other hand, the Airbus A330 is a fly-by-wire aircraft, and if you lose the wire…

Can turbulence bring down a jet? Yes, but again that would not be easy. The structure is built to withstand 150% of the design limits, and those limits are pretty high. Still, given that the storms in the area at the time had thunderheads going up to 50,000 feet, one can’t rule the turbulence out either…

Here’s another factor that I have not seen discussed: hail. Given the magnitude of the storms, it is possible that one could encounter softball-sized hail. If the jet is traveling at 500 mph and hits a piece of hail like that, it could smash the windshield. This would be disastrous at such speeds, and could explain why the automatic message–sent by the flight control systems–indicated both a loss in electrical functionality and cabin pressure.

Given that there was no MAYDAY message from the crew, whatever caused those failures was immediately catastrophic to the crew, and was sufficient to knock out even the backup systems.

What about terrorism? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Still, satellite data would probably have picked it up if there were a midair explosion. Then again, I’m old enough to remember the Lockerbie disaster. If there was a bomb, investigators will be able to tell, as there will be evidence of explosive decompression, as well as residue consistent with the use of explosives. The damage to the fuselage will be indicative of a blast from inside the aircraft.

Right now, it’s hard to speculate without more information. Given the magnitude of the storms in the area, I’m thinking catastrophic turbulence or a large-sized piece of hail.

Commuter Plane Goes Down in Buffalo

A Continental commuter airliner has crashed on final approach in Buffalo. All 48 on board are dead, and at least one person on the ground is also dead. Apparently the weather was bad, as there was lots of snow and fog.

My first gut feeling is that this was a case of structural icing. I’m not aware of a distress call, but if anything goes wrong at low altitude on final approach, the situation can deteriorate too rapidly for a distress call. If this was a case of icing, there was almost nothing they could have done.

One of the more notorious cases of this was American Eagle Flight 4184.

UPDATE: Witnesses are reporting that the left wing was low, and the aircraft was sputtering. If this is the case, then it is possible that one engine may have failed, producing an asymmetric thrust situation. Any pilot with a multi-engine certification is trained for such matters, but it is also possible that the loss of power led to a wing stall. Capt. Sullenberger listed that as a concern as he glided the American Airways jet into the Hudson.

In this case, the pilot probably had no opportunity to react. They were on final approach, already at low speed and low altitude. A stall with one engine out–at low altitude–would provide very little room for recovery.

It is also unknown as to whether the flight controls were working, as that particular model of aircraft had service issues with respect to their hydraulic system. (HT: The Wall Street Journal)

UPDATE #2: Apparently, the crew had reported extensive icing. In addition, the plane had made a 180-degree turn before going nose-first into the ground. This would lead me to believe that (a) there was severe structural icing that resulted in a wing stall, (b) in addition to structural icing, there may have been “carburetor-icing”–involving the engine–that caused an engine to fail, and (c) both of these factors led to a catastrophic stall that was unrecoverable.

Given that there was no MAYDAY call, it is likely that the crew didn’t realize how severe their situation was until the final seconds.

Not Surprised

…at the duplicity of the news media on this. During the election season, MSM got their panties in a wad over Gov. Sarah Palin’s RNC-furnished wardrobe–which cost over $150,000 and none of which she kept–but has no problem with the Obammunists spending $150 million on his coronationinauguration festivities at a time when the economy is in Great Depression II.

Also, I’m not surprised at their attempt to link Obama to the Miracle on the Hudson:

NBC said “Today” show host Matt Lauer would interview Sullenberger from Washington on Monday, a day before President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.

I laughed at first, thinking, “What the heck does Sullenberger’s outstanding display of pilotry have to do with Obama’s coronation?”

Then it hit me, like an attack of gas after a lunch of black beans: THIS IS ALL ABOUT OBAMA’S GREATNESS!!!

The Spirit of The Great Messiah Obama–in grand sovereignty–was working through His devoted servant, Sullenberger, to land that jet. He pre-ordained that event, in order to provide an introduction to His Greatness, which He shall lavish on America.

Shame on me for not connecting the dots sooner!

The Power of Government

This is why government is a bigger threat to our futures than any person, company, or cause.

Chesley Sullenberger, the outstanding pilot who safely parked a US Airways jet in the Hudson River after both engines were destroyed by a double bird strike, has suffered the loss of the privacy of his childhood academic records. Some lower-tier bureaucrat thought he was being clever, and leaked Sullenberger’s IQ scores and school grades–even his attendance records–to the public.

If they’ll do it for heroes, they’ll do it to the rest of us, and all under the banner of “public interest”.

Government is never your friend. Reagan, in fact, pegged it correctly in his 1981 inaugural address: “Government IS the problem.”

Aviation Humor

A friend of mine–a former Naval Aviator–once said, “The three best things in life are a good landing, a good orgasm, and a good bowel movement. The night carrier landing is one of the few opportunities in life to experience all three at the same time.”

The same can be said for landing an airliner in a river.

“We’re Going Down”

Amazing how multi-million dollar technology can be rendered utterly useless by a flock of birds. If indeed this was caused by a bird strike.

Still, the US Airways crew nailed the mother of all emergency landings, into the Hudson River. Every passenger survived, and none of the injuries are life-threatening.

Some of us here are old enough to remember Air Florida Flight 90, which killed 74 people in the plane, and 4 on the ground. In fact, when i first read about today’s crash, my first thoughts were that this was likely due to structural icing.

Against that backdrop–and considering the horrid weather conditions–today’s plane crash, which yielded no fatalities, is aptly-named “The Miracle on the Hudson.”

UPDATE: The US Airways pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger, who pulled off the miracle landing, is a leading aviation safety consultant and former Air Force fighter pilot.