Dreamliner pilot reveals how a storm can make an aircraft 'unflyable'

‘Horrendous turbulence’ and the aircraft could become ‘unflyable’: Pilots reveal why they are VERY keen to fly around storms

  • Here the pilot reveals what could happen in the worst-case scenario
  • Storms can lead to multiple issues, including the risk of an aircraft stalling
  • READ MORE: How air traffic controllers take revenge on disobedient pilots

The next time a big storm is cited as the reason for your flight delay, try to suppress your annoyance โ€“ and be thankful instead that air traffic control or the flight crew aren’t willing to take any chances.

As a Dreamliner captain revealed to MailOnline Travel, if a storm is severe enough, it could make the aircraft ‘unflyable’.

He said: ‘[In a storm there would be] horrendous turbulence, which would likely lead to lots of injuries to passengers and crew as a minimum.

‘Worse-case scenario – either loss of control of the aircraft or possibly a structural failure across control surfaces such as ailerons, elevator, rudder, which would make the aircraft unflyable.’

Pilot Rick James, who runs pilotteacher.com, further explains that storms can create ‘strong windshears with rapidly changing wind directions’.

A Dreamliner captain revealed to MailOnline Travel that if a storm is severe enough, it could make an aircraft ‘unflyable’

If an aircraft takes off and the wind direction suddenly pivots, this can stall the aircraft.

He adds that storms can contain super-cooled water droplets that freeze upon impact with an aircraft, leading to a potentially dangerous ice build-up.

Ice adds weight to the aircraft, alters the flow of air around it and can freeze up the fuel and flight controls.

Captain Steve Allright, who runs British Airways’ Flying with Confidence course for nervous flyers, reveals in the fascinating companion book – Flying With Confidence: The Proven Programme To Fix Your Flying Fears (Random House UK) โ€“ that storms are the adverse weather condition most likely to lead to a diversion.

Captain Allright says: ‘Flight crew would be highly unlikely to take off or land with a huge thunderstorm overhead because of rapidly changing wind conditions, lightning and heavy precipitation in the form of rain or hail.

Captain Steve Allright, who runs British Airways’ Flying with Confidence course for nervous flyers, reveals that storms are the adverse weather condition most likely to lead to a diversionย 

‘Fortunately, commercial aircraft are fitted with high-technology weather radar that detects this precipitation, enabling the flight crew to identify a thunderstorm from over 100 miles (160km) away and take avoiding action, day or night.

‘It is possible to fly through a thunderstorm safely, and sometimes this is necessary because of crowded airspace. This will feel quite turbulent and uncomfortable in the cabin, but it is totally safe. Thunderstorms are really only a problem if there is a big storm over an airfield you are trying to land at.

Air Canada Dreamliner captain Doug Morris (above) in his fascinating book This Is Your Captain Speaking explains how he is always on the lookout for storms

‘The wind around and beneath a thunderstorm can change in speed and direction very quickly, which would change the amount of lift being produced by the wings.’

Veteran Air Canada Dreamliner captain Doug Morris in his fascinating book This Is Your Captain Speaking (ECW Press) explains that he is always on the lookout for thunderstorms.

He writes: ‘One of the best methods, still to this day, for avoiding showers, heavy rain, and turbulent cloud is with a pair of eyeballs.

‘At night, you’ll find me with the flight deck lighting turned down, looking intently outside and scanning the sky. [If] we are near a thunderstorm, I have the flight deck lights dimmed and, usually, the external strobe lights turned off, finding the best path to get out of this meteorological predicament.’

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