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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 23:43
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: SE Qld, Australia
Age: 72
Posts: 935
Letters to Anthony Klan

For the sake of completeness, here are the emails I sent to "The Australian" about Anthony Klan's articles on Friday and Saturday. I'm not saying they're even close to perfect; I was a little steamed up at the time. I used my real name on the emails, changed to "D-9" here.

I ignored all the other tripe that's been published (e.g. Neil Hansford claiming that they shouldn't have planned that route; aircraft caught in updrafts will stall etc etc) and merely concentrated on GT's ravings.

The strong implication in one article was that Rockwell-Collins developed the multi-scan radar solely at the behest of Qantas - I really struggle to accept this! Can this be possibly true, or is GT re-transmitting more Qantas propaganda?


Dear Mr Klan,

Re: “Storm-tracking radar missing from doomed AirAsia flight” (The Australian, Friday January 2nd).

At best, this is an extremely misleading (and demonstrably false) title. They HAD a weather radar! The article mainly seems to comprise
the regurgitated opinions of one Geoffrey Thomas. As far as I know, Mr Thomas has no piloting or engineering qualifications, nor has he ever attended an Air Safety Investigation course, yet he is always ready with an opinion which is invariably greeted with groans from the professional aviation community. You chose to publish his illogical theory that “the failure of AirAsia to be fitted with multi-scan radar likely contributed to Sunday’s crash...”.

I’m not for a moment defending AirAsia, but his comment is utter rubbish.

The only area in which “multi-scan” radar differs from earlier, and far more common, airborne radars is that a computer calculates the altitude of storm build ups, rather than the crew having to guesstimate this using the tilt control. Your quote attributed to Qantas that this radar “...gave pilots a better digital picture of the height of storms...” is absolutely correct – and that’s main difference. How you can then move from this fact to saying that this absence contributed to the AirAsia accident? What Mr Thomas doesn’t seem to realize is the build-ups within the Intertropical Convergence Zone (as existed over the Java Sea) inevitably have tops well above the capability of any airliner (perhaps not Concorde), so that assessing if you could fly over the storms is irrelevant; you cannot “top” them anyway and have to pick your way around them.

These “multi-scan” radars are relatively new; the vast majority of the world’s airline fleet fly safely with the earlier manually tilted (and perfectly adequate) radar. If Mr Thomas was correct, wouldn’t we read about these airliners being spat out of thunderstorms on a daily basis?

I would also challenge the statement that “...multi-scan radars detect ice and hail” – radars detect raindrops, not hail (unless you’re very close). And, other than hail, there’s no ice present in thunderstorms, only rain that might freeze on the airframe.

Thank you for reading this,



(A retired airline pilot).


Re: “Storm detector might have saved doomed AirAsia flight”, The Australian, January 3-4.

Can you put up with me again, Anthony?

As I explained (hopefully) in my email last night, I fail to see how a “multi-scan” radar would have made any difference to this flight's fate.

In your fifth paragraph, you state that “storm-related accidents have plummeted since the 60’s...” - an interesting choice of words, by the way! It indicates that earlier, manually tilted, radars have well and truly done their job, so how you can say that a “multi-scan” radar would have saved this day is baffling. The big difference is that the newer radar makes assessing the height of the clouds easier - even your diagram shows a cell topping out at over 40,000 feet, so any possibility of overflying was highly unlikely!

“...some experts believe may have contributed to the accident.” Apart from Mr Thomas, in no way, other than in his self promotion, an expert – who else claims this? It’s flawed logic for him to state that not having a multi-scan radar contributed to this accident. Since getting above the storm wasn’t an option – the type of radar becomes irrelevant. I’ve canvassed half a dozen friends, all retired or current airline pilots with heaps of experience who have flown behind both types of radar (as I have) – none agreed with his statement.

Again, “Multi-scan radar” can only detect water droplets, not hail. It uses a computer programme to detect vertical movement in the droplets, which is LIKELY to indicate the presences of hail and turbulence (very strong updrafts/downdrafts form hail). There’s nothing new here; this technology was present in the Ansett B737-300’s that I flew over thirty years ago. The limitation was the short range (40 nautical miles), reading Rockwell-Collins’ material this limitation still applies (40 miles travelling at 400 – 500 knots is very close indeed). Note carefully what Rockwell-Collins state in your 14th paragraph – they only talk about detecting raindrops. And they make the thing, so they should know!

Then we have Mr Thomas’s quote: “An aeroplane cannot fly through a thunderstorm”. This opinion is so demonstrably incorrect to make me wonder about how little he really knows about aircraft operations. Aeroplanes DO penetrate storms. Leaving aside deliberate penetrations (weather research etc), there have been many inadvertent storm penetrations over the years. They usually result a truly violent ride, frightening the hell out of the passengers (and crew). Unpleasant, decidedly unsafe, but it certainly does happen. No sane person would deliberately do this, but I repeat – despite Mr Thomas' pontifications - it does happen.

Cheers Anthony,


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