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  • #46
    Originally posted by PlaneEnthusiast View Post
    Try the following exercise: the next time you are riding in a bus, try to be aware of all the bumps and shakes it goes through in normal operation on streets. A bus can shake and rattle quite a bit! However, notice that you never even think twice about it, even if these motions might be much more jarring, in fact, than most turbulence? Try to go through the bumps of the bus and visualize yourself on a plane. It's a step in desensitization towards turbulence, which is what freaks most people out. Turbulence, after all, doesn't bring down birds from flight, correct?

    Second step: next flight you are on-- observe the turbulence. Imagine that you are in a bus, bumping along. Equate it to those motions. Not much different!
    Thank you PlaneEnthusiast!!
    I will definately try this approach asap. I also decided to share my fears with my frienda and colleagues and it seems almost everybody went through some really rough flight at least once in their life and some still have some fear of flying. I think this fear comes to you once you realize how fragile we are and how strong the nature forces can be.

    Well, I don't give up although still holding a breath while counting the days till my next flight.

    Comment


    • #47
      Getting home

      Hi Syracusa,

      I, too, have some unreasonable fears related to flying due to a few inadvertent encounters with convective clouds over the years. However, you can hopefully take solace in the idea that flying (especially with Air France) may actually be safer now than before the accident in question. Some of the younger and/or macho pilots who have bulled their way through high altitude storm clouds in the past are now heeding the words of their old but not bold elders and more frequently diverting around nasty clouds. They are also brushing up on their skills with the on-board weather radar. I have this insight from reading a professional pilots' forum. As in the case with freeway accidents, a bad one tends to make everyone else on the road slow down for a while. You should also realize that the European, Transatlantic, and eastern seaboard USA weather is the most heavily analyzed in the world. Air France 447 faced the Intertropical Convergence Zone over the open ocean in a "black hole" with no radar coverage and radio communication. They had no weather information on-board except for a 4+ hour old satellite picture and a radio update which told them to expect storms over the ocean. Weather updates are much more regular and informative over the transatlantic route you are taking. Also, thunderstorms are much less common along most of your route. If you get bumps in mid-flight, it is more likely to be clear air turbulence or cirrus related which is pretty harmless (although you and your kids should stay seated and belted, especially when the signs are illuminated). Atlanta has its share of thunderstorms in the afternoons, so earlier is better. This summer has been really dry thus far, so you may get lucky and see no dark clouds. If not, there are many, many airports nearby where your pilots could divert if necessary. It's happened to me once in 40 years of flying mostly in the southeast US.

      As for the statistics, you are doing yourself no favors by trying to rationalize your fears. The stats that make flying sound like motorcycle antics include general aviation (i.e., Alaskan hunters with a plane in their front yard, people who build planes from kits, etc.). Amazingly, these folks can still get life insurance policies, and the insurance companies are sticklers for the stats that matter. If you throw out the barnstorming crowd and the underpaid regional airlines, you've got a one in several million chance of dying in a crash. That's better than 99.9999% chance of coming out ok. Your chance of giving yourself a heart attack worrying about your flight is many orders of magnitude greater than actually getting injured on the flight. So, think of your kids and the joy of reaching terra firma in the US again and get on that plane.

      I am steeling myself for a trip to Rio next month. I get to run the convective gauntlet at night over the US southeast, Caribbean, Venezuelan highlands, and the Amazon in an old 767. Wish me (and my pilots!) luck...

      Best wishes,
      astrodeb

      Comment


      • #48
        Originally posted by astrodeb View Post
        Hi Syracusa,

        I, too, have some unreasonable fears related to flying due to a few inadvertent encounters with convective clouds over the years. However, you can hopefully take solace in the idea that flying (especially with Air France) may actually be safer now than before the accident in question. Some of the younger and/or macho pilots who have bulled their way through high altitude storm clouds in the past are now heeding the words of their old but not bold elders and more frequently diverting around nasty clouds. They are also brushing up on their skills with the on-board weather radar. I have this insight from reading a professional pilots' forum. As in the case with freeway accidents, a bad one tends to make everyone else on the road slow down for a while. You should also realize that the European, Transatlantic, and eastern seaboard USA weather is the most heavily analyzed in the world. Air France 447 faced the Intertropical Convergence Zone over the open ocean in a "black hole" with no radar coverage and radio communication. They had no weather information on-board except for a 4+ hour old satellite picture and a radio update which told them to expect storms over the ocean. Weather updates are much more regular and informative over the transatlantic route you are taking. Also, thunderstorms are much less common along most of your route. If you get bumps in mid-flight, it is more likely to be clear air turbulence or cirrus related which is pretty harmless (although you and your kids should stay seated and belted, especially when the signs are illuminated). Atlanta has its share of thunderstorms in the afternoons, so earlier is better. This summer has been really dry thus far, so you may get lucky and see no dark clouds. If not, there are many, many airports nearby where your pilots could divert if necessary. It's happened to me once in 40 years of flying mostly in the southeast US.

        As for the statistics, you are doing yourself no favors by trying to rationalize your fears. The stats that make flying sound like motorcycle antics include general aviation (i.e., Alaskan hunters with a plane in their front yard, people who build planes from kits, etc.). Amazingly, these folks can still get life insurance policies, and the insurance companies are sticklers for the stats that matter. If you throw out the barnstorming crowd and the underpaid regional airlines, you've got a one in several million chance of dying in a crash. That's better than 99.9999% chance of coming out ok. Your chance of giving yourself a heart attack worrying about your flight is many orders of magnitude greater than actually getting injured on the flight. So, think of your kids and the joy of reaching terra firma in the US again and get on that plane.

        I am steeling myself for a trip to Rio next month. I get to run the convective gauntlet at night over the US southeast, Caribbean, Venezuelan highlands, and the Amazon in an old 767. Wish me (and my pilots!) luck...

        Best wishes,
        astrodeb
        Dear astrodeb,

        This is one of the most soothing posts my hysterical, out-of-control brain has read in a while. It helped. Thank you so much and may you always have the best of flights and the best of luck in everything.

        Comment


        • #49
          By the way, astrodeb, from what you read on pilots' sites... do you think that the AirFrance incident may have had at the very least something to do with the pilots being too bold?

          Assuming those pitot tubes were broken/malfunctioning or what have you, could the outcome have been different if the pilots had avoided heavy clouds - even with the pitot tubes messed up?

          Also, did I understand correctly that weather patterns between Europe and the US is more analyzed, more up-to-date at any moment of the flight, and monitored closer than it is on other routes? How come? Why this difference? Other than being a very popular route - lots of people flying from the New World to the Old World back and forth - why else would this be?

          You also say:

          <Air France 447 faced the Intertropical Convergence Zone over the open ocean in a "black hole" with no radar coverage and radio communication. They had no weather information on-board except for a 4+ hour old satellite picture and a radio update which told them to expect storms over the ocean. Weather updates are much more regular and informative over the transatlantic route you are taking.>

          So no "black hole" such as the one you described exists on the US - Europe route? There is radar coverage and radio communication all the way through?
          If so, definitely no pressing need to visit any lands in the ITCZ zone any time soon (meaning in this life).

          Does it help that the flight will be during the day? We will continue to have daylight from the time the plane takes off to the time we land early afternoon Atlanta time. Yes, weather forecast for that day predicts scattered/isolated thunderstorms. I so wish it had been different!



          Thank you again!
          Last edited by syracusa; 07-08-2009, 05:50 PM.

          Comment


          • #50
            Re: flights

            I'm glad you found my post helpful. I do think that pilot miscalculation figured into the AF 447 accident. A plane about 1/2 hour behind 447 had trouble seeing the clouds until they were very close due to the lack of lightning (a peculiar characteristic of building thunderclouds in the ITCZ over water). They had to adjust the gain on their radar repeatedly to see the high altitude cloud tops properly. At high altitude, these tropical cumulonimbi can be dry, making them look wimpy to the radar. With the experienced captain on 447 most likely in his rest period, the plane out of radio contact with air traffic control making the copilots shy about changing course, and out of date weather information on board, the situation was ripe for an inadvertent blunder into a cumulonimbus. Unfortunately, rather than skimming the top of a buildup for the "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" many flyers have experienced without (physical!) harm, they likely plowed mid-level into a 53,000 ft high storm. The pitot icing is probably just a symptom of the real problem - flying into, rather than around, a bad thunderstorm. Airplanes safely navigate around active CB cells all the time, but it takes skill and proper use of the on-board radar. It's also much safer during the daytime when you can see the clouds easily (and not be sleepy in the middle of the night!). There were several other planes which maneuvered through the ITCZ within an hour of the AF accident. All made it with up to 100 mile diversions around the most active areas. They did experience moderate turbulence, but nothing extraordinary. Unfortunately, the last GPS position received from AF 447 shows it right in the thick of the action. "Bold" young pilots who "normalized the deviance" of flying too close to bad weather might indeed be the culprits in this case. Of course, no one really wants to place blame with those who perished. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure, but I know many pilots are taking to heart the notion to avoid CB by a wider margin this summer.

            The US and Europe have many weather satellites hovering overhead in geosynchronous orbit due to their space programs. Since the airways between the US and Europe are so busy, the weather monitoring is excellent, and pilots frequently exchange information on "the ride" at various altitudes. Traveling from Paris to Atlanta, you will likely be not much more than an hour from an airport (Dublin, Reykjavik, Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, Gander, St. John's in Newfoundland) at any time. A few transatlantic planes each week land at one of these far-flung fields, usually for minor technical issues or sick passengers. The biggest actual gap is probably between Greenland and Canada (1.5 hr or so). On those day crossings you can often seen icebergs below in the strait and the spectacularly beautiful glaciers of Greenland. Being so far north, the jet streams often make for a bumpy, but clear, ride. Summer is frequently better than winter. On the other hand, Brazil - Senegal is crossing the worst of the ITCZ from a developing country to a third world one where ATC attentiveness is not at a premium (note how long it took to find out that AF 447 was missing...). The only reason that the Atlantic ITCZ is being watched by satellites at all is due to hurricane monitoring, NASA research on tropical rainfall, and the need to forecast for flights to places like Brazil. The rate of airliner crossings is trivial compared to the transatlantic jetways. Incidently, one of my most memorable turbulence encounters happened in the Pacific ITCZ on the way to Australia. Again, forecast was many hours old by the time we reached the area from Los Angeles. Scary as hell for me, but my daughter and husband didn't even wake up...

            As for forecasts for your flight, you won't really know until a couple of days beforehand how the weather will be in Atlanta. Long range forecasts in the summer always say afternoon showers are expected. Isolated (10%) is better than scattered (30%), but both are < 50% chance of bothering your flight. Likely enough, you will see the clouds and perhaps get bumped around a little on approach. However, Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the world, so they are excellent at guiding planes in and out through the clouds and showers.

            Best wishes and safe flights!
            Astrodeb

            Comment


            • #51
              Many, many thanks for taking the time to write all these details. You sounds so knowledgeable! Thank you again.

              Comment


              • #52
                Scary stuff. What's so interesting is that I'll never deal with this since I drive or take AMTRAK.

                Comment


                • #53
                  Tomorrow is August 4th - we all know your flight will go well

                  Enjoy the ride, we will all be with you!

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