Lion Air, an up and coming discount airline in Indonesia that’s banned along with a number of other Indonesian airlines from flying in the EU, just had a mishap in Bali which has brought attention to a deadly threat faced by every pilot: Wind shear from a sudden storm or squall.
All 108 passengers and crew survived with only a few minor injuries when the Boeing 737 passenger jet undershot Bali’s main airport runway and belly-flopped in the water. It should be noted that both pilots have been cleared for drugs and alcohol while investigators are still poring over the flight data and the interactions between the pilots to determine whether the crash could have been prevented.
However, initial reports seem to indicate the accident was caused by wind shear as sources say the pilots have described flying through a wall of water at the 400 and 200 foot level and completely loosing sight of the runway. The Captain decided to abort the landing but according to unnamed sources:
“The captain says he intended to go around but that he felt the aircraft dragged down by the wind; that is why he hit the sea… There was rain coming east to west; very heavy…”
One passenger also indicated there was no sign of trouble – until the aircraft suddenly dropped into the water.
The new $89-million Boeing is now a total write-off but it could have been worst as wind shear was blamed on the crash of a Delta Air Lines Lockheed Tristar on approach to the Dallas airport in 1985 in an accident that killed 134 passengers and crew.
The Boeing 737-800 is equipped with a “Predictive Windshear System” but it can still be a delicate balance for pilots because if the aircraft’s speed is too slow and you hit a downdraft, you sink while coming in too fast poses its own set of problems because in Bali, it would have meant hitting a road or more sea.