Monday, April 13, 2015

In-Flight Shock: What It Looks Like When A Plane’s Struck By Lightning

In-Flight Shock: What It Looks Like When A Plane’s Struck By Lightning:
Article by Sid Lipsey published in Yahoo Travel

The above news article (click it and read) was very interesting and one that brings to mind my own "lightning strike."  Many people in this article were surprised that the plane didn't turn around and land, especially since it occurred shortly after taking off.  That would have probably been the prudent thing to do, but often after something like this happens, the only thing a flight crew has to rely on for a damage assessment after the strike, is cockpit indicators; instruments and flight control feel.  The questions a pilot asks are:
"Is the plane controllable, is it safe to fly?"  
"Are there any instrument indications telling me something is wrong?" 
"Is there a fire or an electrical issue?"
In this case, I can only assume that everything after the strike felt normal, though I don't fly a 757, it would seem to me that at least, the plane would have a different sound as a result of the hole in the nose.  Moreover, the article doesn't say at what altitude they were struck. Perhaps since they were accelerating or still in a climb, they didn't notice the difference when they got to cruise.  At a high altitude, in thinner air, the plane is much quieter and aerodynamic issues such as "a hole in the nose cone" are not as obvious. Most likely in the descent as they got into denser air, they noticed a different sound.  By then, landing at the destination was the only thing to do.  The nose cone, incidentally is a fiberglass or light weight material that houses the radar.  It only serves as a "fairing" much like those you see in front of  some motorcycles.  The hole in this nose cone would have created more aerodynamic drag, and their fuel consumption may have been a tad higher. but hardly enough to be noticeable.

I was flying a CRJ200 when I was struck by lightening.  I had diverted around a cell to the upwind side by over 50 nautical miles.  It was night and I was relying on my radar for the exact location of the thunder storm.  What I didn't see, nor had no way of exactly knowing (I knew it was a big one, hence my course alteration to avoid it) was that the cell topped well over 40,000 feet and into the upper layers of the atmosphere where the wind shifted almost 180 degrees.  
The storm's energy, but not its moisture was being blown off and down into my path as it reached the upper atmosphere where the opposite direction wind was. Because there was no moisture, there was no radar indication.

At night, unable to discern clouds ahead unless painted by radar, we flew right into this "tumbled down" energy and were rocked with some pretty good turbulence.  We also were hit by lightning.  Yes, it was very loud and very bright.  My instruments were good, the plane flew normally, I was about 200 miles from my destination airport and chose to continue on with no adverse instrument indications and the plane's controls were normal. The plane was safe and flyable after the strike, I made a PA announcement letting the passengers know what had happened and that they didn't have anything to worry about. 

Aircraft are designed to take lightning strikes.  Many people may not know this.  This is certainly something designers considered when these jets were made.

Upon reaching my destination and flying the approach, on short final, I received an indication that one of my sensors was faulty.  It was not a "critical to flight" sensor, and since I was landing anyway, I simply continued and landed.  I wrote up a maintenance form and advised maintenance via radio that the plane had been struck by lightning.  It wasn't until after the passengers de-planed and I got out to do a post flight that I noticed a large "burn ring" on my right winglet (the part of the wing the points up at the end, something becoming more common on aircraft these days).

It wasn't a hole, but the plane was grounded until the repairs were made.

I learned some lessons that day.  Mostly about weather avoidance, but I also gained more respect for the way modern aircraft are designed.  They are tough and made to take quite a bit, especially lightning.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kia Ora New Zealand, Day nine, last one

KIA ORA NEW ZEALAND!  In the Māori language, this phrase can mean several things.  It literally means, "Be well/healthy." It is also used as a farewell and to thank someone.  In this case I offer my thanks and farewell to a beautiful place full of wondrous sites and the friendliest people. 
After 864 kilometers (or 536.865 miles) I have barely begun to scratch the surface. Most of the South Island still awaits me and there were so many wonderful places that I could not go to, but I knew this before I set out, and I did what I wanted to; tour the island and see it from the road.  I stopped when I thought it was interesting and time permitted, got diverted through an area untouched by tourists, and met some terrific people.
I don't know when I will be back, but it will still beckon me.  I can at least scratch this off of my "bucket list."  Thanks for following me on my blog.  Please feel free to leave comments in the comments section.  I always like to hear feedback, be it positive or negative.
 After a late-ish arrival to a great beach side campsite just north of Auckland, Tanner and I walked to a nearby pub and heard some great music, ate a kabob at a Turkish food stand and enjoyed a relaxing evening before walking back and retiring for the evening.
We awoke to a glorious day.  A perfect 72 degrees. We emptied the Britz of its "fluids," before leaving and drove 15 minutes to the Auckland Water front, parked the camper van and walked around.  We took advantage of a one hour bus tour that took us around the heart of the city.   Auckland is beautiful.  It is also one of the mot expensive cities to live in, with real estate prices going up every day.
After the tour, we had a lunch at The Crab Shack, right on the water front (not "Joe's Crab Shack").  There we tasted Ray-weh-nuh bread.  It is a Māori bread and I wished that I had photographed it before we so quickly consumed it.  Needless to say, it was delicious.  We then ordered the "Nelson Paddle Crabs," a bucket of hard shelled crabs with a very buttery, soft meat.  If you eat crabs, you know how hard we worked to eat our lunch!  They are also very unique to NZ and very tasty.
After some shopping, we set out to return our trusty Britz Camper Van which served us well.  Off to the airport, and I write this as I await our flight to LAX. 
KIA ORA again New Zealand, you lived up to your billing.  I love your country.
At the AKL airport prior to departing

Nelson Paddle Crabs

Fiddlers and mandolin players in an Irish Pub

One last Meat Pie before leaving!
Our Auckland Camper Van Site

Beachside path in front of the camp site

Looking North along the path

The Island in the background is Rangitoto Island.  It is volcanic and is only 600 years old!  That is a baby in geologic terms.

Auckland from the bridge crossing the bay looking south.

The "Lenin" bar.  Apparently, no stigma attached to that name here.

On the Waterfront

The Ferry Building on the waterfront

The National Museum of Auckland


More waterfront

At the Crab Shack for lunch

The ubiquitous "Toe-maw-toe" sauce holder, shaped like a toamato

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Zealand, Day Eight--The Unbeaten Path

After a nice leisurely evening in our favorite camper site so far, we “pulled chocks” around 10 am.  We were at a beautiful site in New Plymouth called Belt Road RV park.  Our view was fantastic (reference day seven blog) and the facilities were great.  We drove through the town center and headed north along the coast.  It wasn’t long before we ran across “Mike’s” brewery.  Without hesitation, we pulled in and enjoyed a delicious sample along with some tasty sausages.  Mikes is a brewery that has been around a long time in NZ.  I especially enjoyed their “Full Nelson IPA,” made with hops from Nelson (the town, not me).

Along the way further north we encountered a road leading to Damper Falls.  It is billed as the tallest in NZ, at 70 plus meters, but apparently there are others taller.  Before we knew it, we were barreling down a gravel one lane road and up and down some winding roads.  After about a 30 minute ride and questioning wether or not we got on the correct road (we saw no other vehicles on our drive.  Good thing too since the gravel road was rather narrow).  We finally saw a sign and pulled our trusty Britz camper van into the spot.  One other car was there, a lone Swiss tourist had just returned from the falls.  It was a ten minute walk through sheep pastures, then into a gate that led down a well marked and prepped trail.  The falls were beautiful and worth the drive.  We walked back and spoke to a man having his lunch on the tailgate of his car.  It's funny, but all the older men (read: my age) I have spoken with in NZ talk to you as if you are their drinking buddy of 20 years.  It's funny and refreshing.  The Kiwis are the friendliest people.  Shortly after this, we had our "sheep encounter."  Several men, two dogs and a young boy on an ATV, herded several hundred sheep past our camper van and into the field we had walked through to see the falls.  It was classic New Zealand.
It was on our way back from the falls that we made an error in judgment, under estimating the time it would take to continue east along the smaller road and the conditions of the road in order to connect with the main highway, 4 which ran parallel to the one we left.  We actually stopped and asked directions at one of the few houses we saw.  I got out as my travel companion did not desire to and encountered "Rambo" (or Rainbow, I was never really sure.  I still have problems understanding some Kiwis).  He told us where the road that we were considering led to after looking at our map.  I offered him a beer to thank him.  He did not hesitate and Tanner got two cold Tui beers from the fridge for him.  You would have thought he had just gotten a Christmas gift!  Two hours later after some very treacherous driving on winding, narrow, mostly unpaved roads we connected with the main highway.  We didn't see or encounter a single car along the way, but we did see three logging tractor trailers pulling dual trailers going the opposite way.  One encounter was quite close as you can imagine on these narrow roads.  I'm sure the driver was wondering what the heck was a 7 meter camper van doing there.  We saw some of the most spectacular scenery en route and I am certain we broke new ground as far as tourist travels.
Continuing our drive, which ended up preventing us from seeing the Waitamo Glow Worm Caves, we headed towards Hamilton to stop in on our friends, Audrey and Stefanus who had driven to Rotorua on day one to meet us for dinner.  It was a quick, but nice visit.  They have a lovely home and Audrey is quite the gardener. 
From there we drove to Auckland, the city we flew into, but did not spend anytime in.  We got a nice RV site on the beach north of the city, within walking distance to bars, restaurants and other shopping areas.  Tonight, Wednesday evening, we fly back to LAX landing on Wednesday afternoon.
I will write one more entry and edit my others with more details, photos and impressions. 

New Plymouth shoreline walk

A very nice IPA

A small sample

Mike's has been around for awhile

Single lane tunnel on our way to the falls

Yielding lane for the tunnel

Mt Damper Falls entry 

Tanner on the trail to the falls

Beautiful Mt Damper Falls

Sheep encounter

Even the dogs herding the sheep need a break
The views were spectacular

Tanner with a very happy Mr Rambo

Part of our treacherous drive, this is the good, paved and "wide" section!

Monday, April 6, 2015

NZ, Day Seven; Wellington to New Plymouth

After a short stay in the Wellington Waterfront Motor home park, we set off around 10 AM headed for New Plymouth.  We didn't get into the motor home park until 2 am as our ferry crossing was late, 10:30 PM, arriving Wellington around 1:40 AM.  We had planned this and leaving at 10 AM allowed us to get some sleep for what was our longest stretch yet.
It actually turned out to be the easiest drive, lacking the really winding, mountain roads that most of our drives have included thus far.
We made a grocery stop in Waikanae, getting some of the wines we were unable to purchase yesterday, Easter Sunday.  We were surprised at how quiet some of the towns we passed through were until we learned that today is Easter Monday, another holiday (fortunately grocery stores were open and we could buy wine).  The west coast seemed to be the busier side of the island however, even on a holiday.  We drove through a spectacular coastal area and eventually made our way to New Plymouth choosing to go around the west side of Mount Taranaki along the "Surf Highway," so called because of the popularity of the beaches on this side for surfers.  Mt Taranaki is unusual in that it is almost a perfectly shaped cone protruding from the surrounding relatively flat terrain.   Obviously volcanic in origin, Mt Taranaki is majestic in its isolation from other mountains and its  location on the coast.  When we drove by it, clouds were collapsing over its summit from the windward side and forming "long white clouds" on its lee ward side.  Upon seeing that, I wondered if that is how the Maoris came to name New Zealand Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.

Sunset from our campsite in New Plymouth

Leaving the Wellington Waterfront RV park

The "Beehive," the nickname given to one of the three Parliament Buildings in Wellington, the Capitol
Mana Island off the west coast, just north of Wellington

View from the coastal drive along the western shore going north

Bulls, one of the many small towns we passed through.  They have a cheeky attitude towards the name of their town, using "Bull" in whatever word they can, e.g. "reputa-bull."

A pub in Bulls

More in Bulls

Statue of a Māori canoe

Mount Taranaki with a long white cloud passing over its leeward side
Mount Taranaki stands alone on the west coast just south of New Plymouth

They make lots of bread here in Manaia!

Nice coffee stop in Opunake

Opunake Beach, popular with surfers in the winter months

Our view from the RV site in New Plymouth

Tanner and our trusty "Britz" camper van.  He came up with the name "Britzkrieg" to describe our adventure. 

Sunset from our site