Wichita photo causes safety discussion/debate

Discussion in 'Travel Security' started by kansaskeith, Apr 5, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    landingnearfunnel.jpg Yesterday, April 4, Wichita, Kan. (some 300+ miles north of DFW, by the way) had considerable unsettled weather and, in some parts of town, downpours and hail.

    What really got people's attention, however, was a considerable number of "cold air funnels" over much of Kansas that came from the weather system. One such funnel is shown in this picture.

    Typically, "cold air funnels" are weak and seldom touch the ground, but because they look so much like tornadoes they really get noticed. Photographers, amateur and otherwise, were out in force taking pictures of all these funnels yesterday.

    One such picture showed a plane going ahead and landing in the midst of all that. The picture went onto "Facebook," and from there the discussion really took off. That the pilot was being reckless, that while "cold air funnels" are usually harmless that rule is for people and property on the ground and certainly not meant to endorse flying near them, etc. On the other side of the argument, some pilots shot back that in such a situation as pictured, it would be even worse to fly back into the "hell" that was up above.

    Particularly for us non-pilots, it's hard to know who's right. But the picture certainly has generated the attention. Any opinions here?
     
  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Well the problem with this type of discussion is that it's hard to judge distances and sizes because of perspective...

    That funnel could very well be six miles away and look like the plane is going right into it.

    Look at this image for example...

    [​IMG]

    That undulating tower on the right is 875 feet tall. The building under construction on the left is One World Trade Center, already (in that picture) 500 feet taller.

    Without context (or personal experience) you can't tell how close the buildings are or their size in relation to each other. Same thing could be said for the plane/funnel picture.
     
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  3. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    True, but part of the discussion is going beyond the funnel itself to the whole cloud system in general, whether other funnels could generate at any time (as they were in fact doing in Kansas yesterday but without causing much harm to people on the ground), etc. And it was that tenet that caused some pilots to say "hell no, I wouldn't fly back up into that."

    In general, you're right. None of us know from one picture what the correct decision was. Hasn't stopped people from screaming about it, though.

    I will tell you I was in a sports bar across town, probably 15 miles from the airport, about that time, trying to watch the MLB season opener out of the new Miami stadium, with Muhammad Ali's guest appearance, etc., when a cell came through. Hail, winds, and probably rain as hard as any I have seen in my more than six decades. Obviously knocked out the TV satellite dishes at the sports bar, too, so there wasn't much to do but sip beer and worry about hail, the cars in the parking lots, and our homes a few miles away (which seemed to come out fine). Funnels or not, I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be flying into town right then!
     
  4. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I think the pilots have little choice but to trust whatever they're told from the ground though. If you're in the driver's seat looking and see bad juju going on, but you're told to get on the ground, then that's what you do. And if it's the other way around and you're told to get the hell out of dodge, then that's what you do.

    The guy on the ground knows what he's doing -- or at least you hope he does :) -- and he has a much better perspective of what's going on not only in the immediate vicinity but much farther out. If they tell you to get back in the soup and wait, then it shouldn't matter what it looks like, chances are that this is the best choice.

    Apropos, the FedEx Memphis thunderstorm ops video from youtube.

     

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