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Home > Air Crash > Air France 447 Crash - Was it severe thunderstorm, turbulence or bolt of lightning?
Air France 447 Crash - Was it severe thunderstorm, turbulence or bolt of lightning?
Aviation - Air Crash
Saturday, 13 June 2009 17:41

Dear Captain Lim,

I read nearly a lot of your articles. You helped me a lot to conquer my fear of flying... until AF 447 went down. I don't really listen to what the media are speculating. But some other pilots were saying scary thing.

In some of your answers you say that plane wings cannot be torn off the plane, turbulence can't bring an airplane down, any experienced and sane pilot will not fly into a thunderstorm, a lightning strike can't crash a plane, etc.

Well, the other pilots are saying with confidence that "A bolt of lightning could easily wreck an aircraft and cause a crash by itself", "Turbulence could easily wreck an aircraft and cause a crash by itself". (FYI: http://flightlevel390.blogspot.com/2009/06/af-447.html)

Have you ever flown through a thunderstorm, such that you got scared?

What are your thoughts on a "coffin corner"? Are they pushing the limit?

Thanks a lot.

Regards,

Alex


Hi Alex,

As I have mentioned earlier, no sane pilot would deliberately fly into a severe thunderstorm. Though modern airplanes are designed to withstand the worst of the weather, there is always a limit to it. For instance, they stress-tested the Boeing 777 wings and it only broke off after it deflect more than 24 feet. So, it will indeed break if the forces are greater than that! See this You Tube video below.


Boeing 777 Wing Load Test


Extreme turbulence is found inside the core of these thunderstorms.

Planes have safely withstood lightning. See a Boeing 747 being struck by lighting below.


Boeing 747 Struck by Lightning


That said, many have written to me about the causes of the Air France 447 A330 crash and equally many have also speculated about thunderstorms and lightning as being the primary suspects.

It is already 13 days since the crash, the cockpit and flight data voice recorders have yet to be recovered. So nothing concrete can be attributed to the fatal crash.

However, what can be confirmed are some automated messages being transmitted by the ill-fated plane prior to the crash. A US simulator recreated the scenario based on the messages and came to the conclusion that the plane could have entered a very severe thunderstorm with extreme turbulence. It probably caused the pitot tubes – the speed sensing devices to ice-up, triggering multiple errors onto the flight computers. As a result of the extreme encounters, the plane became uncontrollable.

I respect severe thunderstorms and do not wish to be in one. I know how bad it would be inside one and will avoid them like the plagues!

Yes, there was another speculation that the A330 was flying very close to the “coffin corner” – a zone routinely referred to by pilots as the edge of the “flight envelope” or area of safe operation. In severe thunderstorm, the plane can easily be pushed into the “coffin corner” causing it to stall or lose control. If true, I believe they were not “pushing the limit” but were probably push into it by the severe weather!

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Comments (6)

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With the Swissair crash and this Air France one, the myth that planes dont just simply fall out of the sky, has been truly broken.
kuilis , 24 Jun, 2009
AF 447
I think all of what you said is probably true but, I think there is another, very possible scenario here.
Why is it that the only large piece of the plane found was the complete tail section?
This certainly reminds many of the NYC A-330 crash where the tail was ripped off because of "pilot error".
It is my belief that the same thing happened here.
Even though the limiter was redesigned, it really looks as if the rudder ripped off of this fuselage.
I think the Airbus needs to be looked at more closely.
The rudder/tail assembly is made from composite and not metal.
On a Boeing aircraft, the tail is metal and there is a metal rod going up through the tail section that is connected to the airframe, adding stability.....the airbus doesn't have this.
I was a very loyal airbus flyer but, with all of this coming to light, until there is more of a definitive answer, I'll be flying boeing.
David , 16 Aug, 2009
AF 447
The NYC accident was not an A-330 but an A-300 which is an older airbus model. American Airlines never used Airbus A 330.
Jose , 21 Sep, 2009
AF 447
I am of the firm belief that the vertical stabiliser was in fact, not attached to the aircraft at the point of impact. If the aircraft was in tact and hit the water in a "normal flight attitude" like they say it did, there would be more wreckage in the vicinity of the vertical stabiliser. To date they have found very little of the wreckage. I also believe that with the little amount of wreckage recovered, there is no possible way they could make the assumption that AF 447 hit the water in tact or that it was in a "normal flight attitude". The is BULL! I believe French investigators are saying this to remove the doubt in peoples minds as to the safety of airbus aircraft and to attempt to limit their exposure to lawsuits, or possible bankruptcy if it was proven that the aircraft have an inherent design flaw making them unsafe.

I have an intricate knowledge of aircraft and the accident investigation process and i believe the so called "facts" that have been released so far have no possible evidence based truth with what little they have recovered and the fact that the impact site was water, leaving no impact site evidence. I am not claiming i know what happened, but i stand by what i have stated above. And yes, i have a basis for making these comments as i have been an airline pilot for the past 12 years and have undertaken a course in aircraft accident investigation in the past. Just some food for thought.
L , 23 Oct, 2009
...
If we typically book flights off a site like orbitz.com, how can we tell before booking whether the plane is a Boeing or Airbus? I agree and I'd rather fly Boeing anyday.

I thought Captain Lim said that weather could not bring down a plane unless the plane flew into absolutely severe weather, such as a hurricane, tornado, or microburst. I didn't realize there were storms at such high altitudes but rather thought that was the point of flying so high. I also thought lightning could absolutely not bring down a plane.

Finally, did you read about that bomb threat on an Air France flight that same week albeit from Buenos Aires to Paris? Perhaps a bomb?
Derek , 20 Dec, 2009
i love this blo
thx and verry nice blog thx a lot

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david , 03 Jan, 2012

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