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‘Rare for a plane to break down due to a storm’

The Indonesian government is possibly withholding information on Air Asia Flight 8501, according to a U.S. aviation safety expert, who said that Jakarta may be trying to avoid speculation on the cause of the incident in this early phase of the search for debris.

Speaking to  The Hindu, John Goglia, a former member of the U.S National Transportation Safety Board, said that it was rare for a plane to break up due to a storm but a storm could start a “sequence of events” that could lead to mechanical or other failures in the aircraft.

Citing the example of Air France 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, after ice crystals led to discrepancies in measurements of aircraft speed and a subsequent aerodynamic stall, Mr. Goglia suggested that a similar cause may apply to Flight 8501.

Arnold Barnett, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and an expert on aviation safety questioned whether it may have been a safer option for the pilots to fly around the thunderstorm that they encountered, or otherwise deviate from their course to avoid it.

“Discretion is the better part of valour,” Professor Barnett said, adding that even though the pilots did not receive requested permission to climb 6,000 feet to avoid the storm, updrafts, downdrafts, microbursts and lightning strikes could all be destabilising to on-board instrumentation.

Both Professor Barnett and Mr. Goglia appeared sceptical of the possibility that Flight 8501 may have been shot down by the U.S. military protecting its Indian Ocean base on the Diego Garcia atoll, as per a theory recently floated by a French former airline director regarding Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. “The U.S. cannot even keep nuclear secrets, do you think they would be able to keep secret the shooting down of an aircraft?” Mr. Goglia asked. Professor Barnett similarly noted that there were numerous aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 8501, making it nearly impossible for a missile strike to go unnoticed.

Admitting that those waiting for information on the flight were “at our wits’ end,” Mr. Goglia however noted that the ocean in the area of the suspected crash was not too deep and there were numerous islands, so the remains of the flight may be found in the days and weeks ahead.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 8:43:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/indonesia-withholding-information-us-expert/article6736172.ece

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