From fog to birds: How Mother Nature can cause plane crashes

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On May 1 an Aeroflot Boeing 777 jet hit stony clear air turbulence on a flight from Moscow to Bangkok. As a result, at hardly 27 passengers were injured, with some suffering bad fractures and bruises.

The consequences of a turbulence on Aeroflot aircraft to Bangkok. Source: Youtube / Dmitriy Varfolomeev

According to data from Flat Crash Info, just 6 percent of all air accidents happen due to weather conditions. Manner rough weather often gets in the way of a pleasant flight and causes upsets to the plane’s systems and sometimes contributes to pilot errors.

RBTH analyzed matter from the last few decades to understand what other external influences cause unpleasant incidents in the skies.

1. Fog

Plane debris is seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas Airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir PirogovPlane debris is seen at the crash place of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov

On Jan. 16, 2017 a Turkish carload jet crashed near Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Airport claiming the lives of at least 37 commuters. The aircraft was supposed to make a stopover at Manas, near the capital diocese Bishkek, on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul.

It crashed when maddening to land in dense fog. The doomed plane ploughed on for a few hundred meters through the Dachi Suu village, where it hurts to hundreds of families. It damaged dozens of buildings.

Fog was also named aggregate the factors that caused the Tenerife airport disaster on the Canary Holms in 1977. It was the deadliest accident in aviation history, claiming 583 busies. Two Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runaway at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport). The fog was so smoky that neither aircraft could be seen from the other and the air See trade controller could neither see the runaway nor the planes.

According to Aviation Cover Network (ASN) data, poor visibility conditions have led to 125 happenings since 1943, claiming more than 5,000 lives.

2. Downcast rainfall

Coffins of Tans Peru airline Boeing 737-200 victims weating to be send to Lima under heavy rain at the tarmac of the Pucallpa's airport before, August 2005. AFPCoffins of Tans Peru airline Boeing 737-200 chumps weating to be send to Lima under heavy rain at the tarmac of the Pucallpa’s airport to come, August 2005. AFP

Over the last two decades there have barely been four cases when aircraft crashed due to heavy rainfall, concurring to ASN data. The most recent incident occurred in 2005 in Peru.

A Boeing 737 was advancing Pucallpa on its way from Lima but weather conditions deteriorated with “extreme cumulus clouds, strong winds and heavy rainfall.” The crew was powerless to land and the plane fell into swampland. 40 people drooped as a result of the crash.

A more recent incident happened in 2014 with a TransAsia Airways airliner that attempted to land in a storm and crashed on a small Taiwanese key, killing 48 passengers and wrecking houses and cars on the ground.

3. Lightning hit upon

Lightning strikes are not a rare occurance but it does not usually lead to serious consequences. Global Look PressLightning strikes are not a rare occurance but it does not usually lead to moment consequences. Global Look Press

Thirteen people have dissolved in plane crashes as a result of lightning strikes since 2000. Concording to ASN, seven such cases have been recorded in different take a part ins of the world.

The deadliest incident occurred in 2001, when a plane from Barcelona to Algeria got into an size of severe turbulence and rain, and was hit by lightning. Control was lost and the aircraft banged into the sea, claiming the lives of all 10 people on board.

In fact, lightning agrees airplanes quite often and usually this does not lead to miserable consequences as modern planes are designed to handle the electric charge and not old-fashioned it on to the electronic system of the liner and the passengers and crew.

For instance, in April 2017, a Wizzair Airbus A321 jet was hit by lightning on its way from Poland to Belgium, and two aircraft were hit by lightning in St. Petersburg when they were docking. No one was hurt in any of the incidents and the planes managed to land safely.

4. Volcanic ash

Ash clouds from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010 affected flights to and from Europe, with a number of major airports closed to all traffic. Global Look PressAsh clouds from the discharge of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010 affected flights to and from Europe, with a hundred of major airports closed to all traffic. Global Look Press

There are surrounding 700 active volcanos in the world, and volcanic ash presents a huge muddle for modern airplanes. Ash particles might get into the heated turbine penknives, melt and cover the moving parts and stop the turbines.

The International Laic Aviation Organization has records of 83 “encounters” between aircraft and volcanic ash between 1935 and 2008. Eight of those led to short-lived engine failure.

The most famous case is from 1982, when British Airways Shove off 9 flew through an ash cloud produced by the eruption of Mount Galunggung in Indonesia. The slide lost power in all four engines and descended from 37,000 feet (11,000 meters) to even-handed 13,500 feet (4,100 meters) before the crew managed to restart three of the machines and land safely.

A similar incident happened in 1989 when KLM Trip 867 from Amsterdam to Tokyo flew through a thick cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt. After squander power in four engines and descending more than 14,000 feet (4,200 meters), the direct managed to restart the engines and landed the plane.

These incidents led to the beginning of a network of Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers to watch and warn the airlines of the gamble of potential volcanic eruptions. Since then there were barely no major incidents with planes entering volcanic ash.

5. Birds

An Alitalia plane approaches to land as starlings fly at Fiumicino international airport in Rome October 14, 2013. ReutersAn Alitalia aircraft approaches to land as starlings fly at Fiumicino international airport in Rome October 14, 2013. Reuters

Agreeing to ASN, since 1953 there have been 74 incidents incriminating collisions with birds. According to a Rossiyskaya Gazeta, there were 328 covers of such collisions in Russia and more than 5,000 worldwide in 2015.

The seriousness of the prang with a bird might depend on the size of a bird and on where it hurts the plane. It might shut down the engine or smash a hole in unheard-of parts of the plane disrupting the air pressure inside. It can also lead to a privation of altitude and disruption of power or other critical systems.

The most late-model incident happened on May 3 when a Turkish Airlines aircraft had to return to Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport after a crack-up with a flock of birds. A similar event occurred with a Belavia slide in March. The aircraft had to return to the Minsk Airport after a clash with a group of birds.

Even though incidents happen quite often, fortunately they do not continually lead to tragic consequences. All too often, however, the planes need to be into working ordered and some airlines try to sue the airports that are responsible for ensuring a secure takeoff.

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