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Air France A330-200 lost over Atlantic ocean
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macintologist
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Jun 1, 2009, 04:35 PM
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/wo...ef=global-home

PARIS — An Air France passenger jet traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared and was presumed to have crashed after its electrical systems malfunctioned during a violent electric storm on Sunday evening. Officials said Monday that a search had begun for the wreckage in a vast swath of the Atlantic Ocean.
This is really freaky.

Usually plane crashes happen near takeoff and landing. This crash happened 3 hours into the flight at a cruising altitude of 35000 feet.

Usually its small regional jets made in Russia or America in the 1960s that crash. But this was a 4 years old Airbus A330-200 capable of holding 250 passengers. It was last serviced in April! This model has never fatally crashed.

Usually inexperienced drunken pilots are to blame, but the Air France pilot had logged 11,000 flying hours.

I fly KLM/Northwest Airbus A330s from Minneapolis/Detroit to Amsterdam all the time. Being a frequent flier, I usually I don't get freaked out by plane crash stories. But this one has hit home for me. During takeoff and landing I always think of the remote possibility of something going wrong, but 3 hours into that flight I would have been completely relaxed.

I feel really sorry for the family members of those who died
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 04:37 PM
 
Not a good year to be on a plane.

I think they were hypothesizing that the electronics probably got fried from a lightning strike.
     
macintologist  (op)
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Jun 1, 2009, 04:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by Dakar V View Post
Not a good year to be on a plane.

I think they were hypothesizing that the electronics probably got fried from a lightning strike.
Doubts over lightning's role in missing jetliner | Reuters
Two Lufthansa planes survived the same lightning storm.
     
turtle777
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Jun 1, 2009, 04:56 PM
 
The lightening strike damaging the electronics is most likely NOT the reason for the crash.

* the plane's fuselage acts like a faraday cage
* there are multiple independent electronic networks, backup batteries and generators. The chances that ALL of them fail at once is very highly unlikely.

Linky in German.

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Jun 1, 2009, 05:13 PM
 
Sympathies for the families.




















And I swear if I hear one person blame the US Navy for shooting it down...
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 05:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by ctt1wbw View Post
And I swear if I hear one person blame the US Navy for shooting it down...
where the **** did that crap come from?
     
ctt1wbw
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Jun 1, 2009, 05:28 PM
 
Wasn't there a French reporter who blamed the Navy for shooting down the airliner from JFK a while back?
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 05:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by ctt1wbw View Post
Wasn't there a French reporter who blamed the Navy for shooting down the airliner from JFK a while back?
It's a full blown conspiracy theory around TWA 800...
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Jun 1, 2009, 08:16 PM
 
I wonder if there were any credible terrorist threats? Sounds like the Pan Am flight over Scotland so many years back. Cruising along at 35K feet, then nothing.

Not just trying to blame terrorists for everything... but still... seems suspicious.
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 08:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by macintologist View Post
Usually its small regional jets made in Russia or America in the 1960s that crash.

Usually inexperienced drunken pilots are to blame, but the Air France pilot had logged 11,000 flying hours.
Wow. Nice use of unsubstantiated generalizations. There were no regional jets in the 1960s. The fact is that all planes can crash. And when they do, it's usually not due to pilot inexperience or intoxication (where did that come from?).
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 10:27 PM
 
I just heard an interview where they said that airplanes are tracked via radar, and over an ocean there is no radar so the planes cannot be tracked, so they don't know exactly where it went down.

Is there a good reason there aren't simple GPS trackers on every single passenger plane by now? Wouldn't that tell them pretty much exactly where it went down, therefor where the wreckage is, therefor where survivors might be? I'm probably missing something here due to lack of knowledge on the subject, but my immediate question when he said that they didn't know where it went down was "where's the GPS??". I mean, we can track our kids via their cell phones, why can't we track airplanes over oceans?
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 10:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by ::maroma:: View Post
Is there a good reason there aren't simple GPS trackers on every single passenger plane by now? Wouldn't that tell them pretty much exactly where it went down, therefor where the wreckage is, therefor where survivors might be?
GPS is used for navigation, not for tracking or flight following. And if there were such a device, it likely would have failed when the electrical system failed. So it's not as simple as you might think. If there were survivors, they'd have GPS locators in their life rafts which would communicate with search and rescue satellites. So far, the lack of any information from them is not promising.
     
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Jun 1, 2009, 10:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by ::maroma:: View Post
...we can track our kids via their cell phones, why can't we track airplanes over oceans?
Communication over the oceans is difficult because it's out of range of normal radios.
     
sdilley14
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Jun 1, 2009, 11:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by ::maroma:: View Post
I just heard an interview where they said that airplanes are tracked via radar, and over an ocean there is no radar so the planes cannot be tracked, so they don't know exactly where it went down.

Is there a good reason there aren't simple GPS trackers on every single passenger plane by now? Wouldn't that tell them pretty much exactly where it went down, therefor where the wreckage is, therefor where survivors might be? I'm probably missing something here due to lack of knowledge on the subject, but my immediate question when he said that they didn't know where it went down was "where's the GPS??". I mean, we can track our kids via their cell phones, why can't we track airplanes over oceans?
I'm curious about this too. Wouldn't a battery powered GPS make sense to have on every plane? Something separate from the plane's electrical system and tracked with satellites rather than radar or radio frequency. I don't really know a whole lot about GPS range capabilities or flight tracking so I couldn't say if this would be feasible or not. Seems logical to me though if the satellites are in space. Someone with more knowledge shed some light on this?
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Jun 1, 2009, 11:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by sdilley14 View Post
Something separate from the plane's electrical system and tracked with satellites rather than radar or radio frequency.
It would definitely be feasible, basically something like APRS, but instead of using amateur radio repeaters, it would send the location directly over IridiumSat.
     
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Jun 2, 2009, 12:12 AM
 
Could I take my Garmin Nuvi GPS (or some similar handheld, battery operated GPS) on a plan over the ocean and get reception?
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Jun 2, 2009, 12:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by sdilley14 View Post
Could I take my Garmin Nuvi GPS (or some similar handheld, battery operated GPS) on a plan over the ocean and get reception?
If they let you keep it turned on I don't see why it wouldnt work.
The satellites don't stop working because you are over a large body of water.

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kobi
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Jun 2, 2009, 12:47 AM
 
I feel for the families. So sad.
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Jun 2, 2009, 01:26 AM
 
Originally Posted by macintologist View Post
This model has never fatally crashed.
Sure it has
     
kobi
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Jun 2, 2009, 11:44 AM
 
Looks like it's grim news......they found debris in the ocean, 30 miles apart from each other. Sad.
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64stang06
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Jun 2, 2009, 05:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by kobi View Post
Looks like it's grim news......they found debris in the ocean, 30 miles apart from each other. Sad.
Looks like it is indeed from the plane. Air France wreckage found in Atlantic Ocean, official says - CNN.com
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Jun 2, 2009, 06:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by sdilley14 View Post
Could I take my Garmin Nuvi GPS (or some similar handheld, battery operated GPS) on a plan over the ocean and get reception?
I've tried this before and due to the cabin, small windows, and poor line-of-sight my garmin etrex couldn't get a signal.
     
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Jun 2, 2009, 11:28 PM
 
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 05:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by Kerrigan View Post
Good God, the comments to that article are ****in' UNBELIEVABLE.

That's an even better honeypot for stupid than the Political Lounge of old...
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 08:47 AM
 
Unfortunately what people tend to forget is that a) thunderstorms don't down airliners and b) lightning doesn't either. What somehow also has been missed is that although this is a serious incident (we don;t know if it's an accident yet), we are in an extremely safe era of civil aviation. The last time an accident of this magnitude happened was the China Airlines crash over Taiwan seven years ago!

If you're interested in hearing an actual aviation professional's take on the incident rather than the usual news baloney that follows aviation incidents I suggest reading this article.
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 02:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
a) thunderstorms don't down airliners and b) lightning doesn't either. .
According to a number of pilots, who are discussing this online, thunderstorms and lightning can and do bring down planes. I haven't got the link here at work, I'll try to remember and post it tonight.

The most popular theories I've read in the pilot's forum were that a) the weather radar got damaged by lightning, blinding the plane and making it impossible for the crew to avoid the worst of the weather and b) a double flameout of the engines through hail ingestion, leading to loss of cabin pressure and an emergency descent that ended in catastrophe.

The comments in this post by a commercial pilot make interesting, if sometimes scary, reading: http://flightlevel390.blogspot.com/
( Last edited by Phileas; Jun 3, 2009 at 02:38 PM. )
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 02:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by chabig View Post
GPS is used for navigation, not for tracking or flight following. And if there were such a device, it likely would have failed when the electrical system failed. So it's not as simple as you might think. If there were survivors, they'd have GPS locators in their life rafts which would communicate with search and rescue satellites. So far, the lack of any information from them is not promising.
I thought GPS was for navigation and not tracking.

If you had a GPS puck upload its position to a server every 30 seconds or so, and it suddenly stopped updating, you'd have a pretty good idea of where to start looking.
     
ctt1wbw
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Jun 3, 2009, 03:05 PM
 
I thought thunderstorms and lightning were ruled out for this. The plane was at cruising altitude which is 35k feet. Storms go that high?
     
Phileas
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Jun 3, 2009, 03:09 PM
 
Tropical storms can reach heights of 50k feet. In the blog comments I posted above there are a number of pilots discussing their own experiences with tropical thunderstorms in that part of the world and how they were threading their way through the cloud towers with extreme care.

If you have to do that at night, and if your radar has been knocked out, you're in trouble. Some people suggest that there might have been a possibility, according to the location of the debris, that the pilots were trying to make a run towards the Brazilian mainland when the first signs of trouble appeared.

One thing I learned from reading the blog is just how alone planes really are during ocean crossings, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. The north Atlantic is a busy place, with weather forecasts frequently updated and exchanged between pilots, the South America run can be extremely lonely, by what I've read.
( Last edited by Phileas; Jun 3, 2009 at 03:18 PM. )
     
Oneota
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Jun 3, 2009, 04:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
I thought GPS was for navigation and not tracking.

If you had a GPS puck upload its position to a server every 30 seconds or so, and it suddenly stopped updating, you'd have a pretty good idea of where to start looking.
Right -- GPS, in and of itself, would do no good for anyone looking for you. All a GPS satellite does is broadcast its presence and a very precise indication of the current time. It's up to the GPS receiver to receive as many of those signals as it can and do the math from that to figure out its current location. If the specific device is setup to do so, it can then inform others of its location to its heart's content. But a GPS satellite has no idea how many devices are receiving its signal. It's just telling the world what time it is.
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Jun 3, 2009, 04:27 PM
 
The plane was capable to transmit error data before the crash. It would have been possible to transmit its gps location also.
     
Simon
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Jun 3, 2009, 04:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
According to a number of pilots, who are discussing this online, thunderstorms and lightning can and do bring down planes.
That's wrong. Thunderstorms and lightning can help make an existing situation worse (for example AA1420 in Little Rock, AR) or they can lead to failure of one or several subsystems (for example SO242 New Hope, GA). But they never by themselves down airliners. And no pilot thinks they do. If a CB were enough to crash a plane no crew would ever take off in the first place.

We now know the plane disintegrated in a CB about 3300 ft above MSL. That tells us that there was structural failure. Again something a CB would not do to a plane by itself. But we don't know what set off the entire chain of events leading to this massive failure.

And most importantly, even those who believe the storm downed this A330 should ask themselves why such an experienced crew flying such a sophisticated airliner chose to fly right through such a massive storm. There are at least two completely independent warning systems that would have advised the pilots of the severe weather conditions ahead. But instead they chose to go right through it. Nope. There's definitely more to this. And it's wise to wait for facts before drawing premature conclusions based on all but substantiated evidence.
( Last edited by Simon; Jun 3, 2009 at 05:05 PM. )
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 05:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
The plane was capable to transmit error data before the crash. It would have been possible to transmit its gps location also.
Stupid question: why don't they? Sounds like a reasonable feature -- especially if it's technically feasible.
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Phileas
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Jun 3, 2009, 05:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
That's wrong.
Simon, check the blog I've linked to above. Many of the commenters are working line pilots, guys who know their stuff. According to them:

1. Flying through a storm is routine, especially in this part of the world. Two Lufthansa jets (one passenger, one cargo) passed the same area within 30 minutes of the AF flight, without incident.

2. However, if you're flying through storms in the middle of the night and your weather radar gets knocked out, for example by lightning, you're in trouble. The weather radar is unshielded from lightning, because were it shielded it could not do it's job.

3. If your engines flame out in a thunderstorm, you're in trouble. The engines of the Airbus could have been knocked out by extreme water or hail ingestion. Losing both engines means losing cabin pressure. An emergency descent in a thunderstorm is not a pretty picture.

4. The consensus amongst pilots was that they would do anything they could to find a safe crossing through a storm formation, but that turning back would be an extreme option. If at all possible, you fly on towards your destination.

5. If you're getting caught in the center of a thunderstorm, for whatever reason, you're in trouble. According to these commercial pilots planes can be downed by thunderstorm formations. That's why they will go to extreme length to avoid them.

Anyway, I am not an expert of aviation, I am only telling you what the experts are saying.
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 06:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
That's wrong. Thunderstorms and lightning can help make an existing situation worse (for example AA1420 in Little Rock, AR) or they can lead to failure of one or several subsystems (for example SO242 New Hope, GA). But they never by themselves down airliners. And no pilot thinks they do. If a CB were enough to crash a plane no crew would ever take off in the first place.
From Phileas's link:

But, here are two things being reported with which I will disagree:

1. (Media says,"A bolt of lightning cannot, by itself, bring down a modern airliner.") A bolt of lightning could easily wreck an aircraft and cause a crash by itself. Yes, lightning strikes on aircraft occur everyday. I have been struck many times over my career. Usually, it is a non-event causing only minor damage or none at all. However, if an aircraft is in the vicinity of a very large thunderstorm, it could be struck by a super bolt of lightning wreaking total havoc with disastrous results.

2. (Media says,"Turbulence cannot, by itself, bring down a modern airliner.")Turbulence could easily wreck an aircraft and cause a crash by itself. Severe turbulence in the vicinity of a very large thunderstorm, or even a lesser one, has to be experienced to be believed. I have been inside thunderstorms several times in my career. It is unavoidable when you are a professional pilot. Anyone who disagrees with the previous sentence has not flown enough miles or has been very lucky. As a Line pilot, I go to great, even extreme lengths to stay out of thunderstorms for obvious reasons. Passengers pay me to deliver them safely to their loved ones.

A thunderstorm is a violent and scary entity. It has the power, and I mean real power, to easily rip the wings from an A330, or any other make or model of aircraft. No problem whatsoever.
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 07:11 PM
 
Those quotes just tell me they believe it can happen. They don't relay experiences where lightening has caused airplanes to be blown to pieces mid-air.
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 11:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
Those quotes just tell me they believe it can happen. They don't relay experiences where lightening has caused airplanes to be blown to pieces mid-air.
Read the blog. These are line pilots talking, experts who fly passenger planes every single day. If you don't believe these guys, who do you believe?
     
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Jun 3, 2009, 11:18 PM
 
So out of all those pilots talking, do they have actual cases of spontaneous airframe explosion due to lightening strike?
     
sdilley14
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Jun 3, 2009, 11:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
I thought GPS was for navigation and not tracking.

If you had a GPS puck upload its position to a server every 30 seconds or so, and it suddenly stopped updating, you'd have a pretty good idea of where to start looking.
Seems simple enough. I would think they could develop a slightly more advanced device that could be mounted to the outside of the plane or some place outside the cabin that would allow it to have better line of sight to the satellites it needs to communicate with. This almost seems too simple and obvious to not be in place already...
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Jun 3, 2009, 11:41 PM
 
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Jun 3, 2009, 11:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
So out of all those pilots talking, do they have actual cases of spontaneous airframe explosion due to lightening strike?
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Jun 4, 2009, 02:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
Simon, check the blog I've linked to above. Many of the commenters are working line pilots, guys who know their stuff.
Those pilots are all right, but you're drawing a different conclusion. The pilots are basically summarizing why they avoid thunderstorms in general. And there are good reasons for that. But none of them ever claim a thunderstorm will down an airliner by itself. In the event of an accident the thunderstorm is always just one part of a whole chain of events which eventually leads to disaster.

I said it before and I'll say it again. No pilot believes flying though a CB alone can down his/her plane. Were that the case not a single crew would ever leave the ground in the first place.
     
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Jun 4, 2009, 02:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
The most popular theories I've read in the pilot's forum were that a) the weather radar got damaged by lightning, blinding the plane and making it impossible for the crew to avoid the worst of the weather and b) a double flameout of the engines through hail ingestion, leading to loss of cabin pressure and an emergency descent that ended in catastrophe.
Those are perfectly fine examples. They both show that lightning or thunderstorms can impair a plane's systems and/or the crew's ability to maintain proper flight. Both examples also show that the storm itself does not bring down the plane.

The second example is actually SO 242 which I linked to above. The DC9 attempted an emergency landing on a highway after encountering a double flame out after hail (and possibly foreign object) ingestion. The crew lacked proper weather information, had only primitive weather radar on board and grossly misjudged actual weather conditions. Needless to say this DC9 had only very primitive weather radar and in part this crash led to mandates to install vastly improved systems on modern planes like the A330.

The FAA in this case also explicitly mentioned that a major contributor to the double flame out was failure to apply proper thrust settings thus inducing a massive compressor stall which permanently damaged the fans so that engine recovery remained impossible.

These fact are important to know. Because they tell you that this crash happened not primarily because of a thunderstorm but because a crew didn't know what weather they were facing and ultimately made severe mistakes when trying to recover from system failures. It wasn't hail that brought down this plane, it was (as so often) human error.

Anyway, I am not an expert of aviation, I am only telling you what the experts are saying.
I know what other experts are saying.

Originally Posted by Patrick Smith (ATP)

So that I'm not accused of sugarcoating, I freely concede that powerful turbulence has, on numerous occasions, resulted in damage or injury. With respect to the latter, it is typically people who fell or were thrown about because they weren't belted in. But airplanes themselves are engineered to take a remarkable amount of punishment, including stress limit criteria for both positive and negative G-loads. The level of turbulence required to seriously damage a plane is something that even the most frequent flier will not experience in a lifetime. Around the globe each day, about 5 million people take to the air aboard 35,000 commercial departures. Yet over the past half-century, the number of airliners downed by turbulence can literally be counted on one hand, and almost always there were extenuating circumstances.

...

Lightning strikes are fairly common. An individual jetliner is hit about once every three years. Regional aircraft, plying lower altitudes where there's a greater propensity for strikes, are hit about once a year. Putting that another way: Approximately 26,000 commercial jetliners and turboprops are flying around the world. Assuming a given plane is struck once biennially, 35 planes are zapped every day.

Seeing how there have been only one or two lightning-caused crashes in the past 50 years or so, it's pretty obvious that airplanes are constructed with the phenomenon in mind. Aluminum is very good at helping a plane dissipate and shed lightning's energy, which can top 300,000 amps. Composite components, used with increasing frequency on newer aircraft, are not as effective, but damage tends to be limited to superficial, non-critical areas such as winglets, nose cones, etc.

But, on those rare occasions when a strike does result in something more serious, more often than not it's an electrical issue. The electrical systems of modern jetliners are highly complex and also highly critical. Taken in whole, the electrical system is arguably the most crucial system on board -- a total electrical failure, for example, is about as dire an emergency as exists. But, the typical system employs numerous backups and fail-safe redundancies, making electrical emergencies very unusual.


The experts so far all agree on this one so I really don't know what we are discussing here. No aviation expert will go on record saying that flying through a CB will cause disintegration of a modern airliner like the A330. We know that there was more to AF 447 than this. And all we can do is wait until we learn the facts. Drawing premature conclusions now is tempting and the media excels at it, but it serves absolutely no purpose if you're interested in truly understanding what happened.
( Last edited by Simon; Jun 4, 2009 at 02:38 AM. )
     
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Jun 4, 2009, 02:35 AM
 
There are a few hull loses of the A330, but nothing this severe:

Airbus A330 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I fly twice a week at a minimum. This has me depressed. Especially the thought that they may never recover the black boxes, nor the remains ...
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Simon
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Jun 4, 2009, 02:41 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
So out of all those pilots talking, do they have actual cases of spontaneous airframe explosion due to lightening strike?
That's exactly the point. Pilots know that thunderstorms can be dangerous and thus try to avoid them.

But pilots also know that lightning doesn't lead to spontaneous explosion of the plane just as severe turbulence doesn't rip wings off an airliner. It just doesn't happen and no pilot will claim it does.

These ideas are either from the imagination of people who don't know jack about aviation or from the media frantically trying to fill newspaper pages when actually they have very little to tell.
     
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Jun 4, 2009, 02:48 AM
 
That link is entirely irrelevant in this case. The incident involved a B707 manufactured in 1958. This type of aircraft had absolutely no discharge wicks. Those wicks are now mandatory on all commercial airliners that enter US, European, etc. airspace. The A330 obviously also has them. Next time you see an airliner, you'll notice little black things that look like antennas sticking off the trailing edge of the wing and the wing tips or winglets. Those are the lightning discharge wicks. They're on every plane you'll fly on.

That accident would never happen on a modern airliner. Including the A330. So again. NO, lightning does not lead to spontaneous explosions and airframe disintegration.
     
driven
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Jun 4, 2009, 03:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
That's exactly the point. Pilots know that thunderstorms can be dangerous and thus try to avoid them.

But pilots also know that lightning doesn't lead to spontaneous explosion of the plane just as severe turbulence doesn't rip wings off an airliner. It just doesn't happen and no pilot will claim it does.
American Airlines Flight 587. Turbulence + Rudder over-correction lead to the tail being ripped off the plane ... and it crashed in Queens. (2001)
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Simon
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Jun 4, 2009, 03:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by driven View Post
American Airlines Flight 587. Turbulence + Rudder over-correction lead to the tail being ripped off the plane ... and it crashed in Queens. (2001)
Another great example. In the case of AA 587 an A300 crashed because the vertical stabilizer (the tail fin) separated from the aircraft. This was the result of repeated massive rudder swings (erroneously) executed by the pilot when he encountered severe wake turbulence from a preceding JAL B747. Again, human error downed this plane, not the weather. Also, note that wake turbulence and thunderstorms are unrelated.
     
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Jun 4, 2009, 03:15 AM
 
Originally Posted by ctt1wbw View Post
And I swear if I hear one person blame the US Navy for shooting it down...
i'm sure you will pull some strings from your mighty chair
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Jun 4, 2009, 03:17 AM
 
I don't know .. I'd like to think that a pilot doing rudder swings shouldn't rip the vertical stabilizer off of the aircraft. That's about the same as me taking 3 or 4 hairpin turns over the course of 45 seconds and having the front wheels rip off the car. That crash has always bugged me for that reason.

You don't think that massive course corrections could be required in horrible weather?
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