The flurry of ice grains against Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER that just took off from Malpensa came sudden, but not surprisingly. In the weather maps the area south of the airport – where the plane was headed – at 16:22 on Tuesday 13 July was indicated with a color ranging from orange to red. In short: bad weather and medium-high level. But the hailstorm was so violent as to damage the fuselage, remove the paint in several places, break the windshield glass and puncture the radome on the nose. Forcing flight EK205 bound for New York a return to Malpensa, not without having unloaded the kerosene for about an hour and a half necessary to land safely.
The broken glass of the windshield (photo Vola Milano Malpensa)
Tuesday’s flight is under review by the National Flight Safety Agency (Ansv), the Italian authority that investigates what is happening in civil aviation. The technicians – according to what the Courier service – are acquiring the information necessary for the correct classification of the fact to evaluate whether or not to open an investigation. Investigations of this type could last several months.
From the information gathered, it is known that at 16:21 on Tuesday the control tower gave the go-ahead for take-off, as planned. But, airport sources explain, everything concerning the meteorological chapter at least in Italy is the responsibility of the commander: flight controllers do not have direct access to weather radar – as happens in Germany and the USA – and they can prevent take-off only in the presence of gusts of wind of 40-50 knots (74-93 kilometers per hour).
(photo Vola Milano Malpensa)
The maps in real time were loaded on the tablets – where the flight plans are also located – and on the “Flight management system”, the on-board computer placed between the two pilots. Tuesday around Malpensa hail of 3-4 centimeters in diameter was recorded at the time of take-off according toEuropean Severe Weather Database. It is likely that after the damage to the glass the commander and first officer had to wear the oxygen mask and goggles. The company was also yesterday engaged in the re-routing of the passengers involved – all unharmed – on other flights.
The Emirates flight route over Malpensa (from Flightradar24)
Of events of this type several occur every year and in every part of the world. The structure of the aircraft is made to withstand even such violent hailstorms and the commander and first officer are trained for these situations. Weather forecasts are getting more and more complicated, a little less accurate and fast and intense atmospheric events. This – according to experts – is due to the global warming that brings the tropical climate ever closer to Italy. But it is also caused by the pandemic which has worsened the quality of weather forecasts – worldwide -: one of the elements of climate data collection are the same planes with passengers on board. Once the flights were decimated due to Covid-19, the real-time data at high altitudes also failed from every corner of the planet.
And if it’s not hail, lightning and rain, other dangers are due to animals. According to the National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) in 2019 at Malpensa on 234,026 movements there were 82 impacts with birds and 5 with “other fauna”. Out of 85,720 flights at Linate there were 27 impacts with birds and 4 with «other fauna». Wood pigeons and herring gulls, above all. But also hares. Sea – the company that manages the two plants – uses different methods to remove them: with sound deterrents and with the “reclamation” carried out by the Civil Protection. Every morning, before the start of operations, the slopes are checked.
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July 15, 2021 | 07:38
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