Was Air France flight brought down by turbulence or hail?
100 m.p.h. winds, hail, and rain might have brought Flight 447 down, says a former Air Force meteorologist.
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It couldn’t fly above a thunderstorm with a 50,000-ft. top. It would have been using its onboard radar to try to pick a path through the storm cells.Skip to next paragraph
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Vasquez also makes note of another possible cause: The jet engines were shutdown by rain or hail.
A dual engine flameout due to precipitation or ice ingestion is a noteworthy possibility as has been discussed on other sites
(specific to the A330 type too). The precipitable water content in any tropical weather system can run very high.
Vazquez says that lightning may also have been a factor. And Accuweather raises the same point:
Tropical thunderstorms and the lightning patterns generated by them are different from storms that typically occur over the United States. Studies have shown that the top region of tropical thunderstorms is highly charged and more conducive to lightning, which indicates that an airplane flying near the top of a tropical thunderstorm could be more susceptible to a lightning strike. Tropical thunderstorms are also notorious for producing frequent cloud-to-cloud, as well as cloud-to-air lightning.
But commercial pilots and aviation safety experts say that such jets are designed to take lightning strikes without significant damage. Still, the fact that this was a fly-by-wire aircraft (where the control surfaces are moved by electrically signaled controls, rather than cables, chains, and pulleys) raises doubts among some pilots.
Most pilots, in the absence of more information, are leaning toward turbulence or engine flameout as the most likely causes of AF447’s demise.
But there is at least one faction within the meterological community that disagrees with the theory that the Air France jet was brought down by a storm.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that two Lufthansa jets – heading from South America to Europe – flew through the same area where the thunderstorms were reported, about half an hour before the AF447.
The two aircraft collected wind and temperature information during their flight as part of a WMO program.
On Monday, a source with access to the data transmitted to WMO told Reuters in Paris that the two jets passed through turbulence before and after the plane without incident….
More than 5,000 aircraft collect data under WMO's Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay Programme (AMDAR). The two Lufthansa jets participated in the system, but not the Air France flight, according to the Geneva-based United Nations agency.
But Herbert Puempel, chief of the WMO's aeronautical meteorology division, also told Reuters that thunderstorms tend to be very localized. If one plane reports turbulence, another one passing through the same area even shortly afterward is unlikely to experience it.