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Plane flips upside-down yet survives heavy encounter

March 27, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In an amazing feat of recovery, a plane has survived being flipped upside down several times, rolling uncontrollably and then plunging 10,000 feet after ploughing into wake turbulence, believed to be from a Sydney-bound Emirates A380.

The dramatic incident over the Arabian Sea did not become a disaster, thanks to the skilled pilot of the Canadair Challenger 604 business jet, who managed to recover control of the plane and make an emergency landing.

Wake turbulence, sometimes called jet wash, is a phenomenon similar to the wake produced by a huge ocean liner or freighter, which can overturn a small boat at sea. Aerial wakes can be more violent, accompanied by a pair of vortices – whirling masses of air – spinning out from the wingtips.

A Canadair (also called Bombardier) Challenger 604 business jet of the sort involved in the incident

In the latest case over the Arabian Sea, the ferocious wake turbulence caused serious injuries aboard the Canadair plane, a German private aircraft carrying nine passengers and crew.

The incident happened on 7 January 2017 and reports of it have just surfaced, initially in the Aviation Herald, a renowned aviation journal, and then in the Daily Mail.

The Canadair plane is thought to have flown 1000 feet (about 300 metres) below an A380-800 flying in the opposite direction from Dubai to Sydney. The A380, believed to have been operated by Emirates, continued to Sydney without incident and landed safely and normally.

“After the crew [of the Canadair] managed to stabilise the aircraft the crew decided to divert to Muscat (Oman),” the Aviation Herald reported.

Several occupants were reportedly taken to hospital, one with serious injuries. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair and written off.

According to information the Aviation Herald received on 4 March 2017, wake turbulence slammed into the Canadair plane about one or two minutes after its pass with the A380.

The smaller plane went into an uncontrolled roll, turning the aircraft around at least three times – and possibly even five times.

In the words of the Aviation Herald: “Both engines flamed out, the Ram Air Turbine could not deploy, possibly as result of G-forces and structural stress, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft exercising raw muscle force, restart the engines and divert to Muscat.”

The Aviation Herald is still substantiating details of the occurrence, with no radar data available for the business jet. German authorities are also investigating. No suggestion has been made of any blame or responsibility.

The Aviation Herald says other A380s were crossing the Arabian Sea, including a Qantas aircraft and other Emirates planes, but the Emirates flight to Sydney was the best match.

Air traffic control centres around the world have reportedly been told recently to exercise particular care with A380s crossing above other aircraft.

Wake turbulence can be deadly. In 2001, two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York, an American Airlines A300-600  flying from New York’s JFK airport to the Dominican Republic ran into heavy wake turbulence produced by a Japan Airlines B747-400 that had taken off minutes before it.

In responding and trying to compensate, the first officer of the American Airlines flight over-used the rudder controls, sending the plane plunging into the Belle Harbor neighbourhood of Queens, a borough of New York City. All 260 people aboard were killed, along with five people on the ground.

Written by Peter Needham

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