They Never Let a Good Crisis, or a Bad One, Go to Waste! By James Reed

An anonymous 747 captain has written a piece debunking the climate change alarmist view that the Singapore Airlines SQ321 accident over Myanmar, was a product of climate change weather disturbances. What happened he explains is turbulence was created by the naturally occurring monsoons, and the plane was caught in a sudden turbulence that people were not ready for, many with seat belts off. Hence the injuries. But this has happened before, and will happen again, for it is an ever-present risk associated with flying in that region, and at that season.

Climate change had nothing to do with it. And I trust the captain on this one.

"If in doubt, attribute a quote to Churchill because he probably did say it at one time or another. It's certainly been stolen many times over, and the mainstream media, BBC, Sky et al. have declared an emergency, broken the glass and pulled the dusty old axiom out of its case as the pictures of bloodied passengers and crew – pure gold to the climate catastrophisers – came in yesterday after the Singapore Airlines accident over Myanmar (Burma in old money). For aircraft accident it was, and as, sadly, a death was involved, and several severe injuries, this is how it will be treated by the Singapore aviation authorities. They are nothing if not thorough and eventually the truth will come out, but by then the caravanserai of the chattering classes will have emptied and the climate caravan will be somewhere – anywhere – else. They only need to borrow the truth for a day or two, they don't need to own it.

A troublesome incident for sure. A 'perfect storm' of events seems to have come together. Geographically, Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 was nearing the end of its journey from London and the passengers were being served 'breakfast', or whatever meals are called where local time has overtaken stomach expectations. Trollies were out, galleys were stacked with the detritus of 300-odd meals, and passengers were queuing for the loos to freshen up before the arrival into Singapore. All so normal.

It was approaching mid-afternoon local time and it's Monsoon season in that part of the world. Time for the thunderclouds to be developing. Happens every year at this time. Has to happen or it's a crisis for farmers, fishermen and the local economies around the Bay of Bengal. Yes, if the Monsoon is a bit too vigorous, places like Bangladesh suffer loss of life with floods, but t'was ever thus. It's no coincidence that if the Monsoon is too (un)damp a squib, then it is described as "failed". It's that important and has been over the centuries.

It does bring in its wake what the met men describe as 'chaotic skies'. Clouds everywhere at every level, biblical thunderstorms with electrical activity – and yet hundreds of aircraft full of passengers daily pick their delicate way through the Monsoon without serious incident.

It's been happening like this since Pontius was a pilot, as they say. I've been navigating these skies since I started commercial flying when I was 20. I learned from the old China-Hands who did it in the early days of what we would today recognise as perfectly normal aviation, not overflying most of the weather, but actually picking their way through it at dead of night with only rudimentary weather warning radar. The already red cockpit lighting turned right down to almost nothing so they could stare out into the night and try to spot the cumulonimbus with their name on it. The Flight Engineer would use a small torch to read the engine instruments so as not to disturb the pilot's night vision. It was part of the job then. The old captains would joke that it was worse when they were doing this to spot a night fighter on a Second World War bombing run – one or more of those would spoil their evenings more surely than any bloody fluffy white cloud. Yet they (and we) had the greatest of respect for the forces of Mother Nature, then and now. A night fighter will fill your aircraft and possibly you with holes. A cumulonimbus can take hold of you and rip you up like a paper aeroplane.

Planes are stronger now than 50 years on, but pilots' respect for weather 'events' remains as high as ever. The generally troubled atmosphere surrounding the Monsoon also leads to clear air turbulence which, as yesterday proved, can be just as nasty. It occurs when two air masses rub against each other, thrown together by the progress of the Monsoon. Think a ship docking, and slightly overcooking its approach to the quay. The bang and shudder as the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Two air masses do the same, but they're more difficult to spot and therefore prepare for. It's similar on the North Atlantic. The famous jet streams are separate fast moving tubes of air which similarly rub up against the surrounding air mass and where they meet, turbulence occurs. Always has. They tend to lie along the coastlines of New England and up into the Maritimes of Canada, especially in winter. I remember doing this route regularly in the 1970s and getting tossed around in my 707 mercilessly. I was convinced then that it got worse there annually. It didn't and a decade later it settled down. Apparently, sun-spot activity was very high around then and there was the odd speculation that this may have been linked to rougher winds on the North Atlantic. Nothing was proved and life went on. Grumbling – and slightly queasily – we made our way back to Europe. Nobody thought of asking the politicians to alter the weather for us. No cult grew up around what was thought to be happening, organised by people it wasn't happening to. No human sacrifices were made to placate the gods of wind. But then, there was no money sloshing around in the climate change sector either. It was enough that we were understanding more about how things were happening, where they were likely to be happening, and the best way to avoid the worst while carrying on the essential task of living a normal life. We knew our limitations and inadequacies when dealing with Mother Nature. The thought of a character assassination of MN herself, or that it might somehow be 'our fault', would be enough to get you booted out of a position of responsibility. Now, it's the other way round, and only my generation who form a bridge between now and the sane 70s can recognise the huge gulf in attitudes. Two masses of thinking rubbing up against each other causing what seems to be catastrophic turbulence in mankind itself.

Back to Singapore. It's very doubtful if a big nasty cloud caused the incident. They're too easy to spot nowadays with sophisticated airborne weather radars. Clear air turbulence – not so easy. It can be and is forecast in the preflight met briefings. Only as a likelihood, though, not as a certainty, nor in any one specific place. Occasionally, there may be a seat-of-the-pants warning. A slight rumble. A tremble going through the aircraft. That's a signal to start monitoring the outside air temperature, the wind read-outs and the skies ahead for slight changes in cloud patterns. I've erred on the side of safety enough in the past to annoy the cabin crew by warning them that it might get a bit bumpy soon. This throws their routine out of kilter, and they may decide to stop serving 'hots' and start gathering trays in. Anything more than a hunch and I'd tell them to secure the cabin, seat belt signs on, and if it's getting really bad to sit themselves down and strap in immediately. There will be a mess to clear up after, but hopefully no injuries. Make an announcement to the passengers in best 'resigned to inconvenience' pilot voice that it may be about to feel uncomfortable for a bit, but having been here many times before I know it won't last for very long. That last bit is important. We've all been here before and lived to tell the tale.

Very occasionally there is almost no discernible warning and it's seatbelt signs on, PA to the cabin crew to be seated and hope that nothing flies around the cabin. Slow the plane down a bit, get on to ATC to request an altitude change as turbulent layers are shallow and a five or six thousand feet change in cruising level can help enormously.

The latter is what seems to have happened to SQ yesterday. No warning, a quick change of height authorised and sadly the damage control begun.

As I said, t'was ever thus. No change. The truth is out there and it will come with the Singapore inquiry months down the line when it will only merit a brief mention in the mainstream media. They will be blaming another disaster on climate change by then." 



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Wednesday, 24 July 2024

Captcha Image