Thursday, June 04, 2009

The last moments of Flight 447

We're told that the last fifteen minutes of automated telemetry tell a stark tale of the last fifteen minutes of Air France flight 447 that went down over the Atlantic.

At this point it looks like they flew into a wall of thunderstorms.

I remember my old flight instructor Martin Englebreck telling me about a scud running trip he took to Indiana in a C172 one summer day when the thunderstorms start firing up around 2:00 PM. He'd been dodging them for a couple hours until one came along that he couldn't avoid and couldn't turn back from.

Martin said he'd gone in at about 6,000 feet and it was like being in hell's own freight elevator. The thunderstorm spat the C172 out at about 27,000 feet and it had gotten there at an astounding climb rate. Of course the C172 had some pretty significant hail damage and skin wrinkles but the people at Wichita who put it together had built well.

Martin was a lucky man that day, and he knew it.

The moral of the story as he taught it to me is always have a way out, even if it means retracing your steps.


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