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Editor in plane filmed storm that downed Lao flight

October 21, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Freelance travel and tourism writer Peter Needham, managing editor Australasia for e-Global Travel Media, filmed a short aerial video clip last week of tropical storm Nari, the weather system believed to have been behind the tragic and fatal Lao Airlines crash.

Nari, a typhoon which tore through Vietnam’s central region last week, killed at least 19 people in that country and drove the evacuation of 122,000 people. It wrought major damage in the Philippines earlier and was battering the southern and central provinces of Laos at the time of the Lao Airlines crash.

Peter Needham writes:

I was flying from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines flight VN733 last Wednesday, 16 October 2013, before continuing on to Australia. The flight path passes over the Gulf of Tonkin and Laos. The aircraft was a Boeing 777.

About 40 minutes before our flight was due to land in Ho Chi Minh City we passed a very large and dark cloud mass to the starboard side of the aircraft, with long wisps of cloud trailing from it. Several passengers were looking at it out of the window. What struck me about the cloud was its colour – black. From within the dome of cloud, lightning was flickering intermittently.

Above the cloud was the blue sky of early evening. Under the blue was this big, opaque black cloud mass, lit up by occasional bursts of lightning. It looked beautiful in a way, and a bit evil in another way.

I took my camera and shot a brief video clip, lasting under a minute, to get a record of it. I presume it was part of tropical storm Nari, as that weather system was in that area at the time. I wasn’t in a window seat and I didn’t want to change seats as the seat-belt signs were on.

Surprisingly, we encountered no turbulence on the flight, a credit to the skill of the Vietnam Airlines pilots. We didn’t pass through the storm but kept to  one side of it. Some time later, our plane landed smoothly in Ho Chi Minh City after a pleasant flight with hardly a bump.

You can view my clip of tropical storn Nari from the air by clicking here:

It wasn’t until the following morning, when we landed in Sydney and mobile phone connection was restored, that passengers heard the tragic news about the Lao Airlines flight.

We learned then from online news that a Lao Airlines ATR72-600 (a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner) had plunged into the Mekong River while flying a domestic sector in Laos between Vientiane and Pakse airport. The accident killed all aboard – 49 people from 11 countries, including six Australians.

The accident happened in extreme weather with poor visibility caused by tropical storm Nari and accident investigators consider that a microburst associated with Nari may have triggered it. Laos’ state-run news agency quoted witnesses saying strong gusts of wind appeared to blow the Lao Airways plane off course as it came into land.

The accident in Laos happened about two or three hours before I filmed the storm over Vietnam.

Written by Peter Needham

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