A weather mystery solved!

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:28 PM GMT on November 27, 2006

I asked for some help earlier this month to solve the mystery of where the photos below of a hail-damaged aircraft came from. Thanks to email replies I received from Chris Trott, Patty Jones, Ennien Ashbrook, and the pilot, Richard Barrieau, the mystery has been solved! The airplane was a Boeing 727-200 jet flown by Capital Cargo International Airlines (aircraft registration N708A). It took off from Calgary, Canada, and was enroute to Minneapolis the night of August 10, 2006, when it encountered large hail as it climbed from 30,000 feet to 35,000 feet in a thunderstorm over Alberta. An upper-level disturbance, in concert with a warm, moist air mass, combined to produce a large area of severe thunderstorms, including the one that damaged the unfortunate airplane. The hail damaged the airplane's windshield, nose cone, cowling on the two engines, leading edge of the right wing, lenses, and right side lights. An in-flight emergency was declared, and the the aircraft returned safely to Calgary International Airport. The landing was routine, as the pilot's windshield was undamaged and the weather was clear in Calgary. In an email I received from the pilot, he ruefully informed me that August 10 was his birthday. I think next year he should ask for the day off!

According to some of the mechanics that worked on the aircraft, the damage was mostly cosmetic. Replacement of the nose cone, windshield, cowling on the two engines and the leading edge of the right wing, plus the damaged lenses and lights only took a few days, and the plane has been back in service since September. Some erroneous information on the Internet stated that the airplane was a total loss, and that two crew members quit after they walked off the airplane; that was not the case.

The size of the hailstones the airplane hit is impossible to judge, as none of the stones penetrated the windshield and gave themselves up for examination! As the First Officer commented in a blog entry, "there was no way to measure the size of the hail much less compare it to sporting equipment." So, we'll never know if the plane hit golf ball, tennis ball, softball, or beachball sized hail.

We do know that at the ground, the thunderstorm produced at least golf ball sized hail. According to an email I received from Ennien Ashbrook, "the storm caused record damage to several communities between Red Deer and Calgary. In a couple of heavily-hit rural communities, the entire west walls of houses were completely destroyed, not even the interior drywall left standing. Damage-causing hailstorms are common here, but this one was a real record-breaker."

Hail damage to commercial passenger aircraft is rare, as modern aircraft radar and air traffic control procedures are adept at helping aircraft avoid hail-producing thunderstorms. If anyone has photos or accounts of damaging hail that has affected a commercial jet aircraft, I'd be interested to try to discover the most severe hail damage ever suffered by a commercial aircraft. Send suggestions via email or in the comments section of the blog.
One such incident occurred when hail damaged a Brazilian Airbus jet in March of this year (see photos posted by the MetSul Meteorologia Weather Center). This website also mentions two other cases of hail damage to commercial aircraft--a hailstorm over Germany that left a hole the size of a football in an Airbus plane which had more than 200 passengers on board enroute to England, and an Easyjet 737 that had an emergency landing in Geneva in 2003 after hail did extensive damage to the nose and wings of the plane.

Tropical Storm Durian
In the Western Pacific, residents of the Philippine Islands are anxiously watching Tropical Storm Durian, which is on track to hit the main island of Luzon later this week. The storm is currently suffering from reduced outflow aloft thanks to the influence of a trough to the northwest. However, the influence of this trough is expected to wane over the next 24 hours, and Durian is expected to intensify into a major typhoon. If it hits the Philippines as a major typhoon, it would be the fourth such storm to hit the islands in the past two months.

Jeff Masters

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180. aspiringstat
1:52 PM GMT on November 29, 2006
Typhoon 2000 Active track
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179. Patrap
7:39 AM CST on November 29, 2006
Thanks for the Update.Welcome to the Blogs.Were here to support you any way we can.Is the forecasted track still the same?
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178. aspiringstat
1:38 PM GMT on November 29, 2006
Hello. I'm new here and from the Philippines.
Current storm status Typhoon (JMA)
Category 5 typhoon (1-minute mean)
As of: 0900 UTC November 29, 2006
Location: 13.2░N 126.8░E
370 nm east-southeast of Manila
Winds: 100 kt (185 km/h, 115 mph) sustained (10-minute mean)
125 kt (230 km/h, 145 mph) sustained (1-minute mean)
gusting to 150 kt (280 km/h, 175 mph)
Pressure: 920 hPa
Movement: West at 10 kt
See more detailed information.

this is the latest that i'd seen because our national weather bureau website is currently unavailable.
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177. CybrTeddy
12:58 PM GMT on November 29, 2006

Look at this Thing A CAT 5 later today, right now winds 145!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 25513
176. IKE
6:40 AM CST on November 29, 2006
There are some who post on here that need to be banned. Way over the line.

1 more day and the Atlantic/east PAC hurricane seasons are over.
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172. Fshhead
7:47 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
pop into the chatroom cause we are not supposed to be off topic in the doc's blog
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170. Fshhead
7:45 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
but I will say this if they can control weather then the hold the golden key for global warming LOL
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169. Fshhead
7:43 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
lol yea saw your post...... know all about it but, hmmmmmm don't buy into all of it
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165. Fshhead
7:37 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
well nice to see everyone getting along.....LOL
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162. TyphoonHunter
7:24 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
DURIAN is undergoing explosive deepening. I've just been on the phone to Geoff Mackley who is on his way to the landfall zone. I will post more updates as I get them.
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160. Finnmet
7:22 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
----- Current Analysis -----
Date : 29 NOV 2006 Time : 053300 UTC
Lat : 13:07:39 N Lon : 127:11:45 E

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
5.5 / 954.0mb/102.0kt

6hr-Avg T# 3hr-Avg T# Adj T# Raw T#
5.5 5.5 5.9 7.5

Durian is already a cat.5
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155. Wishcasterboy
7:04 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
Posted By: Randrewl at 7:00 AM GMT on November 29, 2006.

I can't work with stuff like this. It is not important to me.

Bad response to a serious question that was not intended for the likes of you.
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153. Wishcasterboy
7:00 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
That does not matter to me, the question was not intended for you.
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151. Wishcasterboy
6:59 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
I'll be out for a bit.
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150. Wishcasterboy
6:59 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
It was a question not a comment.
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148. Wishcasterboy
6:57 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
Bring it on? No I refuse to engage in your useless grudge against me.
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146. Wishcasterboy
6:57 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
I know this is a time line of underwater wavelengths, but what is the scientific use of this?
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140. Wishcasterboy
6:48 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
I do tire of this, but I will not scare away.
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139. Wishcasterboy
6:47 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
It was a question not a statement.
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137. Wishcasterboy
6:46 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
Is there anybody here besides Randrewl?
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136. Wishcasterboy
6:34 AM GMT on November 29, 2006
Well I was going to ask a question about this animation, but considering you are here to mock every question I ask. It would be futile to even try in your presence.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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