Flying is considered the safest way to travel today. Through mistakes and accidents that have occurred, many corrections have been made in order to get to this point. Through these calamities people were able to learn and improve the aviation industry. Weather has played a significant role in aviation. As technology has progressed it has become easier to monitor and track weather and how to prevent accidents, but even so accidents still occur.
Weather induced accidents have reshaped the industry. Some of these accidents are Air Ontario Flight 1363 which took place on March 10, 1989 due to atmospheric icing, Wuhan Airlines Flight 343 which took place on June 22, 2000 due to a lighting strike, and Avensa Douglas DC-9 crash which took place on March 11th, 1983 due to a heavy fog. It is important to note even though these accidents are weather related, pilot error may have been a factor as well. These accidents show how hazardous weather can be and the damage it can cost.
After 49 seconds after takeoff from Dryden Municipal Airport, Canada, Air Ontario Flight 1363 crashed. The plane was unable to create enough lift to stay clear of trees at the end of the runway due to icing and snow on the wings. As soon as the plane hit the ground it burst into flames. There were 24 fatalities out the 69 souls on board. Snow had been falling at a constant rate and had accumulated to 0.6 to 1.3 centimeters on the wings. Ground icing had developed prior to takeoff and the wings should have been de-iced before takeoff.
A parked aircraft can have a buildup of ice deposits when the “skin temperature cools to the dew point of the air, dew will form. This is not a problem unless, after the dew has formed, the temperature continues to fall to 0°C or less”. Ice and snow having a thickness and roughness on the leading edge and upper surface of a wing can reduce lift by as 30 percent and increase drag by 40 percent. This makes it very important to check for any backlog of icing and to de-ice before takeoff.
Many adverse weather conditions can be catastrophic as seen with Wuhan Airlines Flight 343, scheduled from Enshi Airport, China to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, China. Approaching their destination, weather conditions worsened. Wuhan’s “weather bureau recorded 451 thunderclaps in a 10-minute period as the plane circled”. The aircraft passed an area of wind shear and was struck by lightning and “crashed near Sitai Village, Yongfeng Township. Half of the plane plunged into a farmhouse and the other half came to rest on a dike of the Han River.
Sitai is located about 20 to 30 kilometers from Wuhan. Seven workers who were installing generators on a vessel were killed when the plane hit.” The plane experienced cyclonic wind shear; a change in wind direction and wind speed as it passed through the thunderstorms. As it is an invisible hazard associated with all thunderstorms. The airframe structure was compromised as a result of the lightning strike which eventually caused the plane to split in to two. The investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was adverse weather, specifically the lightning strike.
There are many different types of adverse weather. Another example was the Avensa Douglas DC-9 crash. This occurred on March 11th, 1983. The domestic flight was scheduled from Caracas Airport to Barquisimeto Airport, Venezuela. 27 out of the 50 occupants survived. The pilot made an ILS approach, who was not adept, as there was radiation fog covering the airport. The visibility was less than 5/8 s.m. The airplane had a hard landing which caused the landing gear to collapse and as a result slid of the runway and exploded. The investigation determined with the poor weather conditions specifically the fog and pilot not being well prepared caused the accident.
Weather related accidents have played a huge role in the aviation industry and through these accidents many corrections have been made to improve flying and make pilots be able to handle stressful situations. Lightening, icing, and fog are only a few examples of the many different types of weather conditions can cause catastrophic accidents. As a pilot it is important to know how to react and respond to different types of weather, as weather is constantly changing.