81 passengers board Southern Airlines flight 242, a DC-9, bound for Atlanta, Georgia.
Before their last take-off the crew was handed a weather report for the airports along the route.
The DC-9 was introduced in 1965 to fly frequent short flights.
Both of its engines are mounted to the rear fuselage rather than the wings.
It was designed for take-off on shorter RWYs.
Skies have been smooth all afternoon but the weather is worsening, the flight crew is prepared for turbulence.
At 3.54 p.m. theDC-9 takes off into hard rain.
The short hop to Atlanta should take just 25 minutes.
As Southern Airways 242 flies away from Huntsville the National Weather service tracks weather that is far worse than the pilots expected.
Tornadoes are touching down all cross the south.
The weather in South East in the United States can be very treacherous.
High humidity, high temperatures are the prescription for thunderstorms.
And so with all of this kind of moisture in the air and high convective heating you can have very large thunderstorms that are associated with heavy rains, hail, icing conditions and extreme winds and of cause tornadoes that will be spawned from this kind of action.
Huntsville ATC has some concerns about the gathering storm.
«southern airlines 242, I’m painting a line of weather which appears to be moderate to possibly heavy precipitations.»
In 1977 most airliners were equipped with a Bendix weather radar.
Pilots were trained to avoid regions that appeared bright. Where there’s light there’s bad weather.
The pilots spotted dark area on their radar, a passage way through the storm.
They planned to navigate between towering thunder heads over 1400 meters.
But as they head towards the storm system they get an ominous report from Memphis ATC.
SIGMET is short for significant meteorological information, a warning to pilots that dangerous weather is in the region.
The storm suddenly gets much worse.
Hail the size of baseball hummers the DC-9, breaking the plane’s wind shield.
The plane loses all electrical power.
After 36 seconds in the dark power returns, the instruments come alive and the radio begins working again.
1) What was the destination of Flight 242? How many passengers were on board?
The destination of Flight 242 was Atlanta. 81 passengers were on board.
2) What aircraft type performed the flight? In what way was its design special?
DC-9 performed the flight. The DC-9 was introduced in 1965 to fly frequent short flights. Both of its engines are mounted to the rear fuselage rather than wings. It was designed for take-off on shorter runways.
3) What was analyzed by the crew before takeoff? What information must any flight crew receive and analyze before the flight?
The weather report was analyzed before takeoff by the crew. Any flight crew must receive and analyze METAR, TAF, SIGMET, NOTAM, weather charts, and airnavigation information before the flight.
4) Were the weather conditions adverse at the beginning of the flight? What was the weather like?
Yes, they were. There was a hard rain when airborne. The crew expected a turbulence.
5) What weather phenomena were tracked by meteorologists in the area?
Tornados were tracked by meteorologists in the area. Tornados attached down all across the south.
6) According to the film, what weather conditions are typical for the southern part of the USA?
The weather in the south-east of the U.S. can be very threatous. High humidity, high temperature are prescription for thunderstorms and so with all of the kind of moistening in the air and high convective heating you going to have very large thunderstorms. That are associated with heavy rain, hail, icing conditions and extreme wind.
7) Did the pilots receive the weather update? What weather conditions did their weather radar allow to detect?
Yes, they received the weather update from Memphis ATC. Their weather radar allowed to detect areas with thunderstorm activity.
8) How did the crew intend to proceed on their route? Did they intend to divert the flight?
The pilots spotted dark area on the radar, a passageway through the storm. They planned to navigate between towering thunderheads. They didn’t intend to divert the flight.
9) What is a SIGMET? What were the pilots of Flight 242 alerted about?
SIGMET means Significant Meteorological Information. It is a weather advisory that contains meteorological information concerning the safety of all aircraft.
10) What problems did the flight encounter after getting into the storm activity?
The flight encountered with heavy hail and electrical failure.
11) Was the electrical failure total? How did the situation improve?
Electrical failure was total for 36 seconds. Power returned back after that.
12) What adverse weather conditions that can affect flight safety do you know? What problems can they lead to? What makes weather such a significant factor in aviation? What are the typical weather condition in your region? How do they influence flying?
There are many adverse weather conditions that can affect flight safety such as cyclonic activity, thunderstorm, line squall, thick fog, wind share, blowing snow, heavy shower rain, dust or sand storm, lightning, icing, severe turbulence and so on. These problems can lead to malfunctions, failures, problems with aircraft controllability. All the flights are performed in Earth’s atmosphere. Atmosphere is that place where weather is developing.
The Ural weather is commonly concerned with precipitations. There aren’t any significant problems with weather phenomena in our region. Sometimes I collide with RW surface conditions problems due to ice-crusting. But for general aviation frequent thunderstorms with shower rains are usually problem, so small aircraft are grounded in that conditions.