Lifted aloft by a helicopter, the world’s largest paper airplane was launched last week. It flew!
Here is the forecast snow from a single model (the NAM) valid through 6am Sunday morning. If this is roughly correct, and it is in line with earlier forecasts, I-70, I-80, and I-76 could be impassible and/or closed given that there will be enough wind, at least in places, to officially qualify as blizzard conditions.
|click to enlarge further|
I urge you to be aware of this storm if you are planning travel in these areas. Note: The heavy snow will affect the Denver airport.
Last month, I had some fun with Alec Baldwin and American Airlines’ horrible customer service.
Of course, the underlying problem is the Federal Aviation Administrations’ silly rules about devices being used by passengers before takeoff and landing. The New York Times followed up on the issue in the wake of the Baldwin incident and concluded…
Yeah, that is about right.
The seemingly mysterious crash of Air France Flight 447 over the Atlantic on June 1, 2009, was a mystery to the aviation and meteorological professions. Now, a new book by an aviation expert has confirmed the plane crashed due to pilot errors. And, the first error was flying into a tropical weather system that other commercial flights were avoiding.
We now understand that, indeed, AF447 passed into clouds associated with a large system of thunderstorms, its speed sensors became iced over, and the autopilot disengaged. In the ensuing confusion, the pilots lost control of the airplane because they reacted incorrectly to the loss of instrumentation and then seemed unable to comprehend the nature of the problems they had caused. Neither weather nor malfunction doomed AF447, nor a complex chain of error, but a simple but persistent mistake on the part of one of the pilots.
The full story is here.
Why did the Hindenburg explode? Because the U.S. government refused to sell Kansas helium to Germany. That and many other interesting items about helium from Dan Voorhis at The Wichita Eagle.
A large crowd turned out Thursday night for the first annual aviation weather seminar at the National Center for Aviation Training.
|photos by Dick Elder|
I told the story of how the late Dr. Ted Fujita fought to convince meteorology and aviation of the correctness of his theory that “downbursts” existed and were the cause of a number of airline crashes. As I explain in Warnings, Ted’s persistence in the face of tremendous skepticism and envy has saved thousands of lives.
The goal of the evening was to better train pilots about weather. The National Weather Service provided speakers on microbursts, icing, and other hazards. The audience of more than 100 pilots seemed very appreciative of the useful information conveyed.
With a hat tip to David Faulkner, here is the man himself singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” Scroll down two posts to read the story of Sinatra, the Rat Pack and a Learjet posted yesterday.
Nate is the impressive weather producer for WRAL TV in Raleigh. His blog posting here. Nate talks about pilots, weather, and smartphones. I’d like to relay an experience of my own from just last week.
There were thunderstorms occurring around Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport and I noted the captain looking at his smartphone at the gate. I asked which program he was using for radar. I knew it was one that had a built-in delay of 5 to 7 minutes which could be critical in a thunderstorm situation. I also gave him some additional apps that might be helpful. While I’m not fully comfortable with flight crews using smartphones for radar, if they are going to use it, the radar should be as timely and detailed as possible.
As we taxied out, I could see cloud-to-ground lightning striking the ground. It was one of the few times I have been nervous before a take-off. We got into position at the end of the runway, paused a few minutes (yes, minutes)… and pulled off the runway. It was an hour and forty minutes before we took off, which was exactly the right thing to do.
To what extent my suggestions might have assisted, I don’t know. But, I thanked the crew for a great job when we landed in Houston and they seemed appreciative.
From their press release. Sounds like fun.
The Kansas Aviation Museum and the Orpheum Theater would like to announce the inclusion of three dynamic speakers who will offer ten minutes of detailed information related to the topic as a prelude to each film.
For Flying Tigers, local Charles Chauncey, pilot of the 704th B-29 produced in Wichita and stationed in the Pacific theater, will be on hand to convey his experience of war-time operations and how they affected the life of a pilot.
Prior to Dr. Strangelove, retired Lt. Col. George Sevick will be on hand to share his experience flying not only B-52′s but indeed the very B-52 that is on display at the Kansas Aviation Museum. Lt. Col. Sevick was a navigator/bombardier during Vietnam and spent nearly thirty years with Boeing Wichita working on the B-52 program.
Lastly, Boeing Presidential Airlift program director Kristen Kniest will join us for the 6pm reception and a presentation regarding the film Air Force One, detailing how well the producers of the film matched the reality of life aboard the iconic plane with the demands for dramatic effect during filming.
For more info, scroll down.
I had said I would follow up when we knew what was contained on the “black boxes” recently recovered from the Air France crash. The cause of the crash: Iced-over pitot tubes (which caused incorrect air speed readings) followed by pilot error. The following from the Wall Street Journal:
Friday, I wrote two postings about the FAA, airlines, and tornadoes. You can catch up here. My postings were prompted by the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang posting Part I of their story about the fiasco at Lambert International Airport during the Good Friday tornado of April 22nd. The story pretty well confirms what I wrote about in Warnings:
In fact, Campisi says, Delta does not currently transmit tornado warnings to planes on the ground, at least not that he’s aware of.
This about says it all:
Mary Schiavo, an aviation attorney and former inspector general of the Transportation Department, said that unlike advisories for lightning, dissemination of tornado warnings is not mandated. “The airline should have been warning them but I don’t know of any regulation that requires it,” she said.
“It seems like such common sense, I’ve never thought about the fact that there isn’t one. I know about the lightning [one] but not about tornadoes.”
While the airlines deserve their share of the blame, part goes to the FAA. After dancing around the issue, the FAA stated,
When pressed on whether controllers specifically transmitted the Weather Service’s tornado warning — which warned of a confirmed tornado on the ground and the airport within its path — Molinaro said pilots were told to contact controllers for further details about the weather conditions.
In other words, no they didn’t.
You can read about all of the buck-passing in Part II of the story here. Thanks to the Capital Weather Gang and Washington Post for following up on this important safety issue.
Here is an interview done February 18, two months before the tornado struck Lambert Field.
- The FAA does no weather forecasting. They contract with the National Weather Service for aviation forecasts. The NWS runs a national aviation weather forecasting center in Kansas City and separate aviation forecast desks in many of their forecast centers.
- There is a separate set of aviation products that, in general, run on their own communications systems.
- National Weather Service tornado warnings are not ”aviation products” and do run on the aviation weather weather communication systems.
- The aviation industry has to go outside their normal communications channels to obtain tornado warnings.
In Warnings, I examine the dysfunctional tornado warning system (there really isn’t one) for aviation. You’ll find that on pp. 175-177.
The Washington Post has an excellent first part of a two-part series published earlier today on that topic.
|Above are from news reports on the Good Friday St. Louis Tornado|
|Lambert International Airport|
And now the amazing news: According to CNN, no serious injuries. Think about that: In the city where, historically, more people have been killed by tornadoes than in any other, no serious injuries.
Why? Luck, yes there is always an element of that. But the main reason for this ‘miracle’ is the amazing tornado warning system quietly built by meteorologists the last 50 years.
A map of the tornado’s path through densely-populated areas
from the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
The precision with which tornadoes can be tracked these days is amazing as this real-time blog posting from last night indicates. We not only knew the location of the tornado, we knew it was doing serious damage due to the debris ball on radar.
|Click to enlarge radar image. NWS data via WeatherTap.|
Is the warning system perfect? No. In fact, in Warnings I highlight one of the major deficiencies and it has to do with aviation. The Federal Aviation Administration refuses to allow control towers, air route traffic control centers, and pilots (when they are getting their ‘official’ weather briefings) to get tornado warnings!!!
The FAA has this myopic view that tornado warnings should not be used in aviation because they do not originate as aviation products. There was near miss at the Daytona Beach, FL airport on Christmas Day 2006. Last night, at Lambert International Airport, it was the real thing: People on planes moved around by a tornado and, in at least one case, trapped for hours as a result.
Unless the Federal Aviation Administration changes its position, there will be a major disaster at some point in the future.
That stated, it is amazing how many lives the saved by the storm warning system. The storm warning system seems to operate below everyone’s radar. We never seem to get credit for all of the lives we save.
If this sounds like an interesting topic (and, it is!), pick up a copy of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. Written in the style of a mystery novel, it is an uplifting and fun read that tells the story of how we unlocked the mystery of storms so we could save lives — just as meteorologists did last night.
Note: Expanded and bumped.
If you are a weather geek or just interested in a “blow by blow” description of the storm, just scroll back two pages on this blog. Also, if you would like to read an excellent write up about the meteorology surrounding this tornado outbreak, just click here.
And, if you would like to see detailed radar data (including Doppler winds) from the STL WSR-88D when the storms were in the St. Louis area, click here and scroll down.
Giant hail fell from the STL tornadic thunderstorm. If you want to see a photo, go here and scroll down.
From an aviation weather blog, written by a Delta pilot who was in the cockpit when the tornado struck Lambert Field in St. Louis last night:
I wrote about this problem in my book, Warnings hoping to highlight and fix the problem before a major incident occurred. Due to the serious nature of this storm season, the following press release has been sent to the St. Louis media and other national media outlets. The impetus for change in extreme weather warnings lies with all of us who work in, utilize and support the Federal Aviation-regulated airlines. The FAA has been lucky thus far but once the pendulum swings and a catastrophe hits there will be hundreds of lives at stake. As a scientist and US citizen, I feel a duty to my fellow airline passengers and the industry employees to shift the paradigm regarding weather warnings before any lives are lost.
A line of severe thunderstorms moved across the Florida Peninsula this morning and struck the annual “Sun ‘n Fun” aviation show at the Lakeland Airport.
|Photo: The Wichita Eagle|
The Wichita Eagle’s aviation reporter, Molly McMillan, posted photos and coverage on her blog.
I have three appearances next week…
Rotary Club of West Wichita, Rolling Hills CC, noon, Tuesday, March 8. Speech and book signing.
North Central Texas Chapter, American Meteorological Society, National Weather Service office Ft. Worth, 7pm. Details, including map, here. Public welcome. Speech and book signing.
At both of the above, I’ll be presenting CSI: Meteorology, The Phantom Crashes one of my most popular presentations.
Texas Severe Storms Assn. (TESSA) annual meeting, book signing, Colleyville (Ft. Worth). Details here.
Hope to see you!!