WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Did bad weather doom Air France 447?

Posted June 8, 2009 2:53 p.m. EDT

Tim Vasquez, a predecessor of mine at my last TV stop has conducted a remarkable analysis of the meteorological conditions surrounding the crash of Air France Flight 447 over the equatorial Atlantic more than a week ago.  (Be warned: his analysis is thorough and technical both in terms of aviation and meteorology.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Or the aviatophobic.)

As a former flight route forecaster for the US Air Force, Tim has experience helping pilots assess the dangers of the same kinds of thunderstorms that may have contributed to AF447's demise, including providing guidance round such beasts. He believes they did fly through one of these thunderstorms, and that the storm may have contributed -- possibly significantly -- the plane's crash:

Overall what we know for sure is weather was a factor and the flight definitely crossed through a thunderstorm complex. There is a definite correlation of weather with the crash. However the analysis indicates that the weather is not anything particularly exceptional in terms of instability or storm structure. It's my opinion that tropical storm complexes identical to this one have probably been crossed hundreds of times over the years by other flights without serious incident. [Emphasis in original.]

Beyond the immense human tragedy here is the likelihood that, unless the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are recovered, we may be left only to guess what brought AF447 down, instead of knowing and learning how to prevent such a disaster in the future.