Talk about scary flights. Last week, according to Business Insider, an American Airlines jet (flight 1851) struck several runway lights causing the tail end to slam into the runway while attempting to land at Charlotte Douglas international Airport. The article reported that the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the crew of the American Airlines flight reportedly encountered a wind shear (sudden shifts in wind direction or speed over a small distance) shortly before touching down at the airport. Even more frightening is that Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor wrote that the weather encountered by the plane wasn’t just any wind shear, but a particularly nasty weather phenomenon called a microburst (which is an intense form of wind shear that are very dangerous because they can cause speed and direction fluctuations and make it hard to control the aircraft).
A microburst can also cause a plane to suddenly gain or lose altitude or speed within seconds. Thankfully these incidents are very rare. The jet involved was an Airbus A321 — that was being operated forAmerican by US Airways. The pilot safely aborted the landing and went back a successfully a second time. There were 159 passengers and crew on board the flight. No injuries were reported but the plane did sustain severe damage and has been removed from service.
Business Insider’s story noted that in 1975 Eastern Airlines Flight 66 (a Boeing 727-225) struck several light towers on the runway, caught fire crashed while attempting to land during a thunderstorm at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. In that incident 112 or the 124 passengers and crew died.
Never good news for the white knuckle flyer. As stated microbursts are rare, but dangerous (watch video for more on this flying hazard).