Lufthansa jet narrowly avoids crashing in German windstorm

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

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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

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252. Ivansrvivr
10:53 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
The GFS didn't have "rain & stuff" yesterday, but go back to a week ago and it did. All the models have had trouble getting a handle on this storm being so close to the last big one. The long range models did a much better job than 3-5 day forecasts did at predicting this storm.
251. Patrap
4:57 PM CST on March 06, 2008
One dosent need a tropical Low to create havoc..Just refer to March 93 .

US fronts graphically,animatedLink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
249. Ivansrvivr
10:50 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
JFlorida, those radar trajectories aren't as strange if you think mesoscale low. That would also explain the long lived nature of todays storms.
248. Patrap
4:44 PM CST on March 06, 2008

NEXRAD Radar
Miami Echo Tops Range 124 NMI
Echo Tops to 46k in some of these storms
Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
245. Drakoen
10:27 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
A strong cell is developing in western Broward County moving to the ENE and NE. Continuing to monitor the radar as the storm looks very potent...
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238. TerraNova
10:12 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
From the NYC Discussion:

UPCOMING STORM FRI NIGHT/SAT COULD DELIVER SIGNIFICANT QPF OF 2-3
INCHES WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS...WHICH COULD RESULT IN
SIGNIFICANT RISES ON AREA RIVERS AND STREAMS AS WELL AS AREAL
FLOODING.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
237. TerraNova
10:06 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Look at that flood potential for today and tomorrow...I don't like the look of this second storm. The weather office is already placing my region under flood watches (for tomorrow).

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236. Drakoen
10:05 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Hello everyone. Just passing by. Some pretty strong thunderstorm cells are moving through south Florida around lake Okeechobee and points east. Stay safe...
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235. Patrap
4:04 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Mid-Atlantic Low..click to enlarge.
Goes-Low Cloud Product

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
234. Patrap
4:02 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Its all a Big scary La Nina, El Nino..conspiracy really. Mother Nature has taken us fer a ride again.

Dont Panic. All is well.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
233. LakeShadow
10:02 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
self-updating I guess...
there I put the 12 hour loop up
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232. LakeShadow
10:02 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
it disappeared..there was a low swirl in the atlantic basin...
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230. NEwxguy
9:53 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Lake,what are you looking at in the view
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229. LakeShadow
9:47 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
see the Low feature..what is that?
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228. LakeShadow
9:45 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
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227. hurricane23
4:28 PM EST on March 06, 2008
226. TheCaneWhisperer 4:27 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Are we sure this is a La Nina? In reference to South East rainfall, seems that we're getting quite a bit more rainfall that is typically expected during a La Nina winter. I'm not complaining but, just another thing to add to the list of oddities in the past several years.

I was thinking about that the other day.
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226. TheCaneWhisperer
9:22 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Are we sure this is a La Nina? In reference to South East rainfall, seems that we're getting quite a bit more rainfall that is typically expected during a La Nina winter. I'm not complaining but, just another thing to add to the list of oddities in the past several years.
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224. Patrap
3:15 PM CST on March 06, 2008
I'll make a note on that..thanks..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
222. NEwxguy
9:07 PM GMT on March 06, 2008

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
355 PM EST THU MAR 6 2008

FLC011-099-062130-
/O.CON.KMFL.SV.W.0012.000000T0000Z-080306T2130Z/
PALM BEACH FL-BROWARD FL-
355 PM EST THU MAR 6 2008

...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 430 PM EST
FOR NORTH CENTRAL BROWARD AND SOUTHWESTERN PALM BEACH COUNTIES...

AT 352 PM EST...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO
INDICATE A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS IN
EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR HOLEY LAND WILDLIFE
MANAGEMENT AREA...MOVING EAST AT 13 MPH.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR...

RURAL SOUTHERN PALM BEACH COUNTY...
US 27...

AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
220. NEwxguy
8:50 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
I remember the '93' storm clearly,no one on the east coast was spared,we saw every type of weather here in New England
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219. NEwxguy
8:45 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Tornado Warning
TORNADO WARNING
TXC469-062115-
/O.NEW.KCRP.TO.W.0004.080306T2038Z-080306T2115Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX
238 PM CST THU MAR 6 2008

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CORPUS CHRISTI HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EAST CENTRAL VICTORIA COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS

* UNTIL 315 PM CST

* AT 232 PM CST...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO NEAR
TELFERNER...OR ABOUT 6 MILES EAST OF VICTORIA...MOVING EAST AT
20 MPH.

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
5 MILES SOUTH OF INEZ BY 250 PM CST...

THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A TORNADO IS IN A BASEMENT. GET UNDER A
WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. IF NO BASEMENT IS
AVAILABLE...SEEK SHELTER ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE BUILDING IN AN
INTERIOR HALLWAY OR ROOM SUCH AS A CLOSET. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO
COVER YOUR BODY AND ALWAYS STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS.

IF IN MOBILE HOMES OR VEHICLES...EVACUATE THEM AND GET INSIDE A
SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER. IF NO SHELTER IS AVAILABLE...LIE FLAT IN THE
NEAREST DITCH OR OTHER LOW SPOT AND COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR HANDS.

A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 600 PM CST THURSDAY EVENING
FOR CENTRAL TEXAS.

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218. hurricane23
3:47 PM EST on March 06, 2008

My page on my site on the 93 Superstorm.
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217. Patrap
2:47 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Sunday is Spring Forward.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
216. AWeatherLover
8:40 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
does anyone have any data/resources they could tell me about regarding strong ENSO events being bad for hurricane development? That is not what I was taught in any meteorology classes but if there is new information then I'd love to read about it. Thanks to anyone who can help.
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215. NEwxguy
8:44 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Don't forget Daylight Savings time begins this weekend.
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214. Patrap
2:35 PM CST on March 06, 2008
It dosent have to be tropical to create Havoc..er,.. as we saw in March 93 Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
213. Altestic
3:34 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Adrian, "Very True"?? when's the last time something tropical ever occurred in Marzo in the entire Atlantic basin?
212. Altestic
3:29 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Lawl, poor them. You're not a w***c***** Ivan. Why would they think that?
211. hurricane23
3:29 PM EST on March 06, 2008
210. Patrap 3:29 PM EST on March 06, 2008
The tropics aint the only threat 23,Cyclogenesis can occur in the GOM from a surface low in March as well.

Very true.
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210. Patrap
2:27 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Everything going well here 23. BarometerBob Show tonight Live from Jacksonville Fla.

The show starts at 8pm/et and you can listen live at WRBN.Net

You can call into the show LIVE at
1-866-931-8437(U.S.A Toll Free) or 904-259-4229 World Wide (Tolls Apply)
With your host Barometer Bob Brookens from Hurricane Hollow Weather!
Show Link
Stormchat Link

The tropics aint the only threat 23,Cyclogenesis can occur in the GOM from a surface low in March as well.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
209. Ivansrvivr
8:26 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Altesic, I'm sure those on my ignore list are screaming at the top if their typing fingers.
208. hurricane23
3:26 PM EST on March 06, 2008
I know pat just wondering why some are looking at SST maps in early march.How is everything pat?I just got home from work real tired man ive had a rough week thankgod tommorow is friday.Just wanted to share with you and everybody on the blog a fantastic book from a good friend.The book is called storm chaser from jim reed its an incredible book with just some of the best severe weather pics you will ever see.This guys pictures will blow you away.The book is worth every penny its been out for a few weeks now but just in case some folks have not had the chance to pick it up make sure you go out and get a copy.Takecare

Just remembered jeff masters had a blog on its release not to long ago.
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207. Ivansrvivr
8:21 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
NEWX, neutral or weak Enso cycles either way lead to bad tropical seasons. Strong Nino or Nina cycles squash tropical development. 04 was weak ElNino, 05 was weak Nina-neutral. 06-07 had much stronger ENSO cycle and led to "bust years" as someone else stated
206. Altestic
3:23 PM EST on March 06, 2008
OH NOEZ!!1! You used the W.C. word and its only March! Armaggeddon time!

Laff.
205. Patrap
2:23 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Ana, Tropical Cyclone Report

Tropical Storm Ana
20 - 24 April 2003Link

Track Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129847
204. Ivansrvivr
8:19 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
Bust years??? And to think that those on my ignore list accused me of being a "wishcaster".
203. NEwxguy
8:19 PM GMT on March 06, 2008
MichaelStl was indicating last week, that some of our worst hurricane seasons have been in the neutral years and not the La Nina or El Nino years.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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