Lufthansa jet narrowly avoids crashing in German windstorm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:39 PM GMT on March 05, 2008

Share this Blog
2
+

A Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 137 people on board nearly crashed at the Hamburg, Germany airport on Saturday, March 1, as the pilot struggled to land the airplane during high winds kicked up by winter storm "Emma". If you don't have a fear of flying, take at look at the remarkable video an amateur photographer captured of the landing. It's been uploaded to LiveLeak.com and YouTube. As seen in the still images captured from the video (Figure 1), the pilot attempted to land the aircraft with a strong crosswind blowing from right to left. The crosswind is so strong that the drift angle of the aircraft (the difference between where the nose is pointed and the actual track of the airplane along the runway) is about 20 degrees. As the pilot touches the wheels down, he kicks the rudder to straighten the airplane out, and at that moment, a strong gust of wind lifts up the right wing, pushing the left wingtip of the aircraft into the runway. The pilot is skillful and lucky enough to avoid having the airplane cartwheel down the runway and explode, and aborts the landing attempt. You can see the blast of the engines kick up a cloud of dust on the left side of the runway as he goes to full throttle for a "go around" (thanks to Jeff Weber of UNIDATA for making the correct analysis of this dust cloud). The plane landed safely on its second attempt. Do you think the passengers were praying during that second landing? I do! Only minor damage was done to the left wingtip, and the plane was back in service by the next day.


Figure 1. Still photo of the Lufthansa jet (left) as it approached the runway. Note sharp angle between the direction the airplane's nose is pointed, and the track it is taking along the length of the runway. Strong winds of 40 mph gusting to 63 mph were observed at the airport that afternoon. Right photo: the left wingtip of the jet scrapes the runway as a big gust of wind hits. Image credit: LiveLeak.com.

The weather that led to the near disaster
The initial press reports indicated that a wind gust of 155 mph hit the aircraft as it tried to land. That sounded rather dubious to me, so I took a closer look at the weather conditions that day. The only way a wind gust of that magnitude could have been generated would be from a powerful microburst flowing out from the base of a severe thunderstorm. The world record strongest thunderstorm microburst occurred on August 1, 1983, when winds of 149.5 mph were clocked at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C., just five minutes after President Reagan landed there aboard Air Force 1. So, a 155 mph wind gust is possible, but it would be a new world record.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image from 10:20 GMT Saturday March 1 2008. Winter storm "Emma", a 960 mb low pressure centered north of Hamburg over Norway, has pushed a cold front through Germany. A strong northwest to west-northwest flow of air coming off the North Sea (red arrows) brought sustained winds of 36 mph, gusting to 56 mph, to Hamburg, Germany. Image credit: University of Bern, Switzerland.

Were there severe thunderstorms near Hamburg on March 1 that could have generated such a wind gust? A powerful low pressure system (Emma) with a central pressure of 960 mb passed to the north of Hamburg, Germany that morning, dragging a strong cold front through in the late morning (Figure 2). After cold frontal passage, the wunderground history page for Hamburg at 12:50 GMT, five minutes before the time of the incident, shows sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 56 mph. A temporary wind reading of 40 mph, gusting to 63 mph, also occurred. The temperature was about 45°F, with occasional rain. This is classic post-cold front weather, and is not the sort of environment where severe thunderstorms with strong microbursts occur. Later press reports corrected the 155 mph wind gust, reducing it to 56 mph. Apparently, the aircraft's landing speed was 155 mph. In any case, the plane was operating very near to the maximum crosswinds an Airbus A320 is permitted to land in--38 mph, gusting to 44 mph. There are questions whether air traffic control should have used that runway for landings, and whether or not the pilot should have attempted a landing in those conditions. There is an interesting discussion at the LiveATC.net discussion forum where some pilots weight in on the near-disaster.

Winter storm Emma did considerable damage across Germany. Six people died in weather-related automobile accidents, power was cut to 150,000 homes, and high winds ripped the roof off of a school in Hesse. In neighboring countries, 260 buildings lost their roofs in Poland, flooding collapsed a bridge in Romania, and in the Czech Republic, 92,000 people (about 10 percent of the population) lost power.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 303 - 253

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

303. Patrap
9:24 PM CST on March 06, 2008
NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 1.45 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
302. BahaHurican
10:20 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Wow! Look at OPC's forecast for Monday!

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22563
301. BahaHurican
10:06 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Evening everybody.

I was kinda surprised not to see all the Gulf coast people in here shortly after the good Doc updated the blog. I'm quite impressed to see we are up to 300 posts since then :o)

I'm finding this latest storm pretty interesting, and am watching to see exactly how far east that line will actually come before it slides completely off the the north. Weather in Nassau today was remarkably warm and humid, making it easy to understand why storms over the FL peninsula were so strong today.

Someone mentioned the unusually wet weather for SE US under La Nina conditions; I'm wondering if the relatively "late" onset time for this la Nina is enhancing effects, or if it's simply the MJO.

Somebody else has been talking about a possible TC in the Caribbean in March. I agree it's terribly unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out as impossible. Unlike the WPac, which can have tropical systems form in any month of the year, conditions in the Caribbean in March are consistently unfavorable. Even the occasional April-May system is more likely to form in the open ATL.

I'm off to see what the latest is in the only currently active basin, the S Indian.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22563
300. chklingon
2:44 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
I am watching my backside to see if we are going to get any snow tonight behind the front here in Central Texas.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
299. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:41 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
atlantic basin possible invest

track mark 37.1w/28.4n poss inv
i am now monitoring system for further dev if any
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54838
297. HIEXPRESS
9:18 PM EST on March 06, 2008
225. MichaelSTL
That does bring up the question of what this year will be like; 1989?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
296. chklingon
2:32 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
ouch.....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
295. scwindsaloft
9:23 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Some ships are really taking a beating right now and some oil rigs are wondering what happened. I hope everyone is O.K.



yea.... 2.25" hail associated with it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
294. chklingon
2:14 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
Yes it is. That is impressive. Some ships are really taking a beating right now and some oil rigs are wondering what happened. I hope everyone is O.K.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
293. aquak9
9:00 PM EST on March 06, 2008
chklingon- yep, it's still rollin'

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
291. chklingon
1:43 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
Holy Moly... that storm off the coast of Texas is rough looking. It may indeed be much worse than may think. That is in the middle of a large oil field and right across the Port of Houston shipping lanes. That is NOT good.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
290. weatherbro
1:30 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
Hydro-tell me more about that 1981 storm?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
289. JFLORIDA
1:25 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
That is unusual - especially considering it really wasn't supposed to be there.

sat

They are not saying much, no warnings or discussions but it looks like its veering NE a bit.

perhaps not - it may just be going straight across. Doesn't seem to be getting weaker, more defined perhaps.

Central Gulf (out of radar range) heavy convection has started building.

Possible Water spout moving towards Louisiana.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
288. hurricane23
8:22 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Cool looking MESO for sure!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
287. hurricane23
8:19 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Just a regular non-tropical low....Maybe the result would have been different if this were june/july.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
286. Weather456
8:55 PM AST on March 06, 2008
A non tropical low pressure continues to meander over the Eastern Subtropical Atlantic near 27.8N/37.2W. This afternoon's quickscat (20:43 UTC) pass showed the circulation has become better defined over the past 12 hrs and producing a more symmetrical and concise area of gale force winds. The quikSCAT pass also showed the system interacting with the bridging high centered towards the low's northwest. Recent GOES-12 infrared imagery showed bursts of moderate to deep convective bands being produced within the baroclinic-supported enviroment and gradually wrapping around the system and near its center of circulation, with the associated weakening frontal boundary trailing the system.

The system remains enveloped within a broad upper level trough and thus little moevement is expected over the next 12-48 hrs.

AMSU-A imagery continue to show a weak warm-core at 250 hpa and it is becoming more apparent on infrared imagery.

The system is currently under 5-15 knots of vertical wind shear, thanks to the upper trough but SSTs of 20C, thus any develop will take place as the system moves over warmer subtropical waters.

Only the GFS model was found to indicating some kind of subtropical cyclogenesis as the system meanders southward, south of the subtropical ridge.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
285. hurricane23
8:16 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
284. aquak9
8:12 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Ultra-cool radar south of Houston- thank goodness this is over water!

Link

(aqua scurries away)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
283. Patrap
7:04 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Barometer Bob Show

The Barometer Bob Show broadcasts LIVE every Thursday night at 8:00pm/et from Northeast Florida.

So listen in, and the toll free phones will be available by dialing 1-866-931-8437 (1-866-WE1THER)!
Listen to the show LIVE on Thursday nights by clicking the LISTEN LIVE Button above.

BarometerBob Show at 7pmcst. Link
Stormchat Link

LIVE ..NOW
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
282. FLWeatherFreak91
8:02 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Now the l3 cell has 2.5" hail!!!! Check patrap's if you don't believe it!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
280. Weather456
6:46 PM AST on March 06, 2008
I will present an update shortly:

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
279. hydrus
12:28 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
WEATHERBRO-On March 13 We had wind sustained 58.M.P.H.with winds gusting 70 for 3 hours.This is the longest duration I have seen since 1981 when we had winds gusting as high as 55.M.P.H for three solid days.I will never forget it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
278. scwindsaloft
7:44 PM EST on March 06, 2008
And some interesting rotation....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
277. Patrap
6:44 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Thats OK..the Fish have Hardhats I hear..LOL.
Seriously..thats a bad one.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
276. scwindsaloft
7:40 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Pat that TVS cell L3 has 1.25" hail!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
275. Patrap
6:30 PM CST on March 06, 2008
TVS offa Houston ..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
274. Patrap
6:29 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Barometer Bob Show

The Barometer Bob Show broadcasts LIVE every Thursday night at 8:00pm/et from Northeast Florida.

So listen in, and the toll free phones will be available by dialing 1-866-931-8437 (1-866-WE1THER)!
Listen to the show LIVE on Thursday nights by clicking the LISTEN LIVE Button above.

BarometerBob Show at 7pmcst. Link
Stormchat Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
273. IKE
6:28 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Tornado vortex...south of Houston,TX...in the GOM...Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
272. weatherbro
12:17 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
My '93 storm story in a nutshell. We were minding our own business watching T.V. one night when winds suddenly picked up near hurricane force. and stay that way for almost 24 hours!

1 hour later the squall line arrived with spectacular lightning and lowed thunder.

The next day skies cleared but the deracho didn't. Branches small debris were flying around everywhere.

The next day meteorologists were explaining what took us all by surprise as an extratropical hurricane or superstorm. A once in a lifetime event.

All I could say was Wow! By the way things are looking it could be twice.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
271. JFLORIDA
12:04 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
I may take you up on that later. It will be PB and j for a while.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
270. atmoaggie
11:59 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
262. JFLORIDA 11:16 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
I hope the models are better in the Summer. After July I'm gonna be spending hurricane season for the next two years in NO with you guys pat.

C'mon. Come enjoy some real food, mon cher. Mail me here if you have questions about where best to do that.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
269. atmoaggie
11:55 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
261. Patrap 11:14 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Im working on a June 1 blog entry, a cartooned spoof on wishcasting, westcasting,..asking which are the BEST models..and those who post the TWO..6-8 times a day.

Its gonna be a riot of an entry..


Dang, that sounds like fun. I love a good mockery of weather porn!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
268. weathermanwannabe
6:35 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Hey Folks.....A very complex weather scenaro setting up along the Gulf Coast/Florida but we can certainly expect tons of rain (and a few other surprises I'm sure)....On radar, that cell down om South Florida off Alligator Alley looks VERY nasty.........My March 93 story in a nutshell?....Was in a conference in Orlando/Stayed with a friend at a wooden 2 story house he was builing (almost finished)/We left "happy hour" driving out to his place on 5 acres off US 27 on old Orange Grove property/Hit blinding rain and hail on the way home/Ran into the house and spent the next several hours (into overnight) kinda sacred with the house "swaying" in the wind/Spent the next morning clearing out debris/limbs all over the place............Very Memorable in spite of the Beer Goggles.........
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
267. Ivansrvivr
11:28 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Patrap, I'm looking forward to your June 1st blog. I'm also looking forward to seeing the rainfall total tomorrow. This storm is has been going on 4 hrs now here. Everytime it starts letting up, another one comes out of the SW.
266. JFLORIDA
11:24 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0362
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0500 PM CST THU MAR 06 2008

THIS THREAT IS EXPECTED
TO MOVE OFFSHORE WITHIN THE HOUR AND AN ADDITIONAL WW IS NOT
ANTICIPATED.


They didn't really anticipate it in the first place - or the stuff in Fla today. The discussion was a bit light, I wonder if they are not sure.

Its a bit odd as it moves east.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
265. JFLORIDA
11:20 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Yea it will be fun. there are some storms pulling off Texas that I sure wouldn't like to be on the water for.

It may get bad in east Texas and Louisiana tonight.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
264. stormdude77
7:16 PM AST on March 06, 2008
and those who post the TWO..6-8 times a day.

LOL... Good one Patrap...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
263. Patrap
5:16 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Good deal then. I'll have someone to blog with here when the Frays come a passing by, or thru.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
262. JFLORIDA
11:14 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
I hope the models are better in the Summer. After July I'm gonna be spending hurricane season for the next two years in NO with you guys pat.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
261. Patrap
5:12 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Im working on a June 1 blog entry, a cartooned spoof on wishcasting, westcasting,..asking which are the BEST models..and those who post the TWO..6-8 times a day.

Its gonna be a riot of an entry..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
260. scwindsaloft
6:13 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Martin FL News On storm damage
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
259. Patrap
5:11 PM CST on March 06, 2008
I aint a-skeered of them wishcasters,Im sperienced, LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
258. stormdude77
7:07 PM AST on March 06, 2008
Hey everyone

Look's like some bad weather weather in South Florida and Texas tonight. Stay safe y'all!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
257. Ivansrvivr
11:06 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Excellent point Patrap, taking into account other things like seasons, climatology, available ingredients for storm development are big help. Remember that this is March, a time when the airmasses tend to clash.
256. JFLORIDA
11:05 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
hopefully that was a once in a lifetime thing. We still haven't hit the low pressures that were in the gulf for the last system anyway. - but they are dropping fast on the western side.

Haha pat - wonder if you will say that when the "summer people" show up. They'll get their pitchforks and torches out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
255. Patrap
5:05 PM CST on March 06, 2008
One has to look at the real time some and not just the Models..they just tools to help in the forecasting method.They not Gospel by any means , period.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129090
254. Ivansrvivr
11:01 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
"Just refer to March 93" ..or in my case recall driving thru it. Recall the snow at the AL/FL line and the hurricane force winds later on. I hate to compare any developing storm to that one, but this may be in that league.
253. JFLORIDA
11:00 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
So so, very true patrap. I wont get started on that one again. Worst storm Id ever been in. Or have since for that matter. Snowed at the end of it too.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 303 - 253

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.