Investigators probe Tokyo jet crash

Wind shear seen as possible cause of deadly crash of FedEx plane at Narita airport.

    The jet crashed and cartwheeled off the runway as it came in to land at Tokyo's Narita airport [Reuters]

    Wind shear is particularly dangerous for planes during take-off or landing when pilots have barely seconds to respond to sudden the sudden change in conditions.

    The MD-11 jet belonging to international courier firm FedEx had been on a routine flight from Guangzhou in southern China when it suddenly cartwheeled and burst into flames as it came into land on Monday morning.

    The dead pilots have been named as Kevin Kyle Mosley, 54, and Anthony Stephen Pino, 49, both from the US.

    Weather warning

    What is wind shear?

      Wind shear is a sudden change in either wind speed or direction within a short distance, causing a sudden gain or loss of lift for aircraft

    It is generally associated with frontal weather systems, particularly thunderstorms

    It can easily destabilise an aircraft and is one of the most challenging conditions a pilot can face

    Wind shear poses the greatest risk to an aircraft during take-off or landing when pilots have only seconds to respond

    A particularly dangerous form is vertical wind shear (known as a microburst), where wind suddenly reverses from blowing upwards to a downward direction, creating a sudden and violent downward force on the aircraft

    At the time of the crash Japan's weather agency had warned aircraft that the area around Narita was at risk of windshear with the airport being lashed by strong wind gusts of up to 72kmh.

    Patrick Smith, a Boston-based pilot and aviation analyst, told the Associated Press that the strong winds and known control issues with the MD-11 aircraft may have contributed to the crash.

    "It is possible that shears from these gusts, together with known instability issues of the MD-11, led to the accident," he said.

    Smith said the MD-11, a widebody aircraft that is no-longer being manufactured, has unusually sensitive controls, one effect of which is a tendency for pilots to over-control during a bounced or otherwise unstable landing.

    In severe cases that can lead to a total loss of control.

    In 1997 another MD-11 also belonging to FedEx crashed, flipped over and burst into flames following a hard landing at Newark airport near New York.

    Two years late an MD-11 passenger jet flipped over and burst into flames, killing three people during a crash landing in a storm in Hong Kong.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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