Radio Weather Chatter

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My new weather woman (Kris Posman) in Savannah sometimes says that tomorrows’ weather will be “tricky“.

Living in Maryland the past 20 years, I was not familiar with this weather term.  As you will see below, flying through thunderstorms is also “tricky“.

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ON-LINE AVIATION CHATTER /

MSG BOARDS / DISCUSSIONS

You never know what you may hear on the radio! Below are the most recent on-line aviation chatter and message board discussions.  Please understand the below are only chatter/discussions among aviation professionals world-wide and should not be considered fact until all official information is released by Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Disinformation (BEA).

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Question/Comment:  People on the other threads and websites quoted the Brazilian Navy as saying surface currents in the area run 3 to 5 kts per hour. I assume the tailfin would be moved only by surface currents, not significantly influenced by winds due to the way it was floating. But I could be wrong about that.

OK, let’s say it’s 3kts… that gives it 72NM per day… give it 5 days and it’s 370NM to which there is no guarantee that (and evidently) the debris and bodies will all move at the same rate and in the same direction resulting in a conveniently right cluster… So, even if the aircraft did breakup upon water impact, or shortly before, a 90km spread after a few days isn’t hard to achieve… therefore, it doesn’t prove or explain that it was a high-altitude breakup, although it cannot be ruled out at this stage.

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Question/Comment:  I am appalled that some write: “I don’t see any reason why cockpit crews cannot be blamed for anything”… at this stage, there is NOTHING to conclude it.

Are you implying that entering heavy cloud or turbulence means the pilot is in error? It happens EVERYDAY!

Unless you’re a professional investigator, Pilot Error should be, and always be, the LAST on the list.

For [investigators], plausible scenarios should be made first, before assessing the culpability of the crew for their actions.

Dead men can’t talk and hindsight is always 20/20. Saying that crew error is likely, is much fairer than “it has to be”.Pilots don’t want to make fatal errors (except for suicidal ones)… at least [let’s] appreciate that…

Most who are quick to point out pilot error base it on the decision for not flying around the storm.

Saying that is easy.

Having operated on the big jets worldwide for 30 years I wonder if the crew at the planning stage when faced with the wx north of Brazil made decisions along the lines as follows:

Radar Attenuation or blackholes is not out of the question… and one cannot conclusively blame the crew for it.

Along the following:

Have a “go” using radar to find a hole in the ITCZ. Maybe closer inspection will see if AF447 made any deviations. Nearest airways are along way away (UN866 and UB623).

Crews turn off airways for a few miles without contacting ATC in a non radar environment. Especially allowing for the hassle of using HF radio when flying the aircraft is priority No.1.

Shows a normal reaction of crew when confronted by a wide area storm.

Playing hide and seek with clouds using radar, can be a problem depending on the situation, and each storm is different and one relies on experience to make a judgement call when doing so. Why? again, risks of attenuation and black holes.

Any pilot who has flown in tropical areas during monsoons that claim to NEVER even be tempted to play hide and seek would be an outright liar, or hasn’t flown enough in those conditions.

Given the above and if you see the radar plot for 0200UTC that night, playing hide-and-seek may be what have happened. There’s a nice gap in black and grey they might have tried to punch through between ORARO and TASIL.

If hide and seek is stamped as “improper”, how wide of a deviation would one suggest? And see if such a wide deviation is wise or not in terms of generally accepted practice with no relationship to this accident (thus without the benefit of hindsight).

Using the below graphic as example:

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weather1

Pictures are examples from a flight over W.Europe that, had it not been for an ? aggressive? down tilt on the WXR would have only painted ?green? and would have definitely posed a hazard at night without the benefit of lightning.

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weather2

Looking left of the aircraft with the sun behind the camera! All these shots are taken at 35 mm max wide aperture on my old compact camera. So we were pretty close! Note we didn’t experience any turb. This only paints “green”.  Note with high terrain the ground paints quite well nearer to the a/c than normal. It looked pretty impressive. I’m using this for showing the problem with blaming the crew… with the benefit of daylight:

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weather3

Slightly left of nose

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weather4

Slightly right of nose

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Now, what do you suggest? Play hide-and-seek and punch through?

So, the guy decided to play hide and seek…

So let’s go up to the wall in front, and turn left… Here’s the result…

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weather5

So we’ve encircled the muck on the left… now look forward.

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weather6

The wall of clear narrows…

OK, where do we go now? Right?  Have a look to the right…

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weather7

That’s not a nice wall…

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So, punching by hide-and-seek… it’s normal for crew to do… error? OK, how about avoiding the area altogether? Is it wise? Let’s have a look at the radar prior to deciding to turn left for the punching with hide-and-seek…

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weather8

The radar paint.

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If you suggest avoid the area altogether, you’ve got a lot of understanding to do. The above is an “easy” problem if using the hindsight of “going through red = accident”… The radar doesn’t always paint a 100% clear and usable picture… Let’s look at this:

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weather9

Simple… I see a CB, so I want to avoid it… correct?

So left’s turn left and avoid it…

Now, surely we’ve cleared that pair of blown up hammers called CBs… so, just see what’s on the radar…

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weather10

Hey, that CB we’re avoiding on the front right (1 o’clock at about 40NM) is showing… GREEN…

Now, you still want to fly through that green???? (luckily, this flight, the CB was right of track all the way until waypoint YDC).

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Now look at that at last radar plot, and tell me you think the whole area shouldn’t be flown over????

LB Note: Picture author authorizes free use.

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As a [professional investigator], I can assure my friends that I have deep respect for pilots. But unfortunately when it comes to deciding on how to play hide-and-seek with thunderstorm cells there is no backup system that will save a captain’s ass if he makes the wrong turn and get into a monstrous up/downdraft.

It is understandable why pilots can become the “easy target” when It comes to putting the blame especially after 200+ people are mysteriously killed during a stormy night over the Atlantic on a public flight that could have mine or anybody’s family on board.

So, when can we talk about pilot error? Are we allowed?

YES, with decency, we’re allowed to talk about it, but talk about it OBJECTIVELY.

How do you maintain objectivity on crew error? First, it’s not easy, and secondly, do it at the end when you’ve adequately covered the facts of what happened independent of crew caused actions (not crew reactions).

As others have noted on this message board, that one of the origins of human error is the reliance on “objective criteria in conclusive analysis”.

I suggest a reading of “Aviation Decision Making Process”, and “inadequacies of conventional decision making process”… “ADMP” (as I like to call it) is extremely useful on process thought management… even outside aviation.

Quality Assurance Systems have adopted the same philosophy as ADMP… Outside Flight Operations, ADMP do save a LOT of money because, when used objectively, it leads to excellent risk management, unnecessary risk alleviation, and timely corrective actions. It has saved my life and my pocket a lot of the times both on the ground and in the air.

And yes, “forte turbulence” is subjective… measuring turbulence is extremely subjective… Just like those who says “bumpy landing”…

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Question/Comment: Proven is almost nothing in regards of AF447, only that it approached, likely entered a severe storm and encountered severe turbulance. As for a deviation, wouldn’t the pilot have reported such?

Ever tried reporting a deviation in Africa or congested HF airspace? In a non-radar environment… the atc couldn’t care less whether you deviate or not, they would be concerned about time separation through a revised estimate of your arrival at the next waypoint and the altitude you would be at.

Since the ACARS POS PLOT indicate that they would be ahead of schedule on arrival to TASIL, such a deviation would result in them reaching TASIL or abeam TASIL more or less near their ETA TASIL.

The proof of deviation comes in at the ACARS POS at 0214… north of track (a net of 2 degs off track if you take in the position from all the way back as their reported position at 0133 UTC… on an 11NM cross track position.

From past posting:

The last ACARS (0214UTC) position was 330NM and 2degs off track from INTOL… this gives an 11.5NM cross track at 0214UTC.

Aircraft was under autopilot control until 0210UTC.

If the aircraft was on track at 0210UTC, that means between 0210 to 0214, the aircraft would have travelled 31.8NM at 19.9 degrees off track.

Now assuming aircraft was still under control at 0214, one would not make a 20deg track error (not heading error) due to manual flying (+/-5 is acceptable)…

Based on the above, I guess it is safe to assume at this time that the crew DID deviate off track prior to 0210UTC (under autopilot control)

If they didn’t deviate, then it would be inevitable to conclude the loss of autopilot under the conditions the crew faced, the aircraft produced a net 19.9 degree deviation… that leaves nothing else but progressive loss of control between 0210 to 0214, with the minimum of inability to maintain wings relatively level. Whilst not impossible, I find that hard to believe.

Others can tell us what’s the coordinated turn rates for 2.5degs, 5degs, 10degs and 15degs…

Currently, it needs a scenario such as progressive change in speed of 0.5kt per second and on a constant turn rate of 0.3 degrees, both commencing at 0211UTC, to result on a the cross track and lateral track requirements…

If one wants to OBJECTIVELY blame pilot error based on no course deviation due to weather, then I suggest one starts calculating such deviation rate scenarios from 0210UTC to 0214UTC to cause the aircraft to end where it is at… and see if such deviations are possible and plausible. Otherwise, until there is some factual base to it, it’s subjective.

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