|Subject: FW: ANA Japanese
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 11:11:03 -0600
Nice photo of a lightning strike on an airplane. In a way, this shows what "messing with the ionization" of the various layers of the atmosphere could accomplish. Also stirred up old memories.
Many years ago I was on a troop aircraft that flew directly through a large region of intense storm activity, including five tornadoes. Buffeting was indescribable, and the aircraft was so charged that rivers of electrical fire were streaming down (a foot thick) at the floor level, from the front of the aircraft through it and out the rear. Some lightning flashes also hit the aircraft. St. Elmo's fire was evident; the wings and skin of the aircraft were fiercely glowing with electric fire. Outside in the boiling murky clouds they were continuously illuminated by extraordinary great lightning flashes all around. By some miracle, we got through there and survived, did not explode in the air, and did not hit one of the five scattered tornado funnels we were in the midst of.
We had taken off from El Paso (after firing Nike missiles at the old Red Canyon range camp in New Mexico) in a blinding dust storm (the military charters in those days flew through nearly anything, come hell or high water) and were heavily loaded. We managed to get up over the mountains in El Paso by the skin of the teeth, and then flew into this mess that night, on our way back to Norfolk Virginia. We had to fly right through the middle of the area where five tornadoes had gathered and ringed us in, with the heavens cannonading us. We flew through that fierce buffeting, up on the nose, back onto the tail, up on one wing tip, sliding and slipping all around, etc., suddenly penetrating into an "eye" in the middle of all that mess that was about two miles or so across (we were in an old DC-4). In the eye, the air was totally calm; one could have set a waterglass on his tray holder, and it would not have rippled the water. I got an excellent view of the "solid giant curved vertical wall" of the huge boiling clouds that ringed us. Then we plunged back into the other mess on the other side again, knocked and buffeted around all over the sky again. Getting through that eventually (three-quarters of an hour), we then flew through the rest of the night to get to Norfolk, our destination. When we arrived in Norfolk very early the next morning, dense fog etc. was everywhere, and Norfolk airport was already closed because of zero visibility. So we flew across the bay, but everything was closed there also. Only airport remaining open was the old National airport in Washington D.C., so we set off for that one (as did everything on the East Coast or coming into it). We wound up in the great "circling" of gobs of aircraft going on in the sky there and waiting to get clearance to land; first the President flew through from somewhere, delaying the dickens out of everything, then another aircraft had an emergency, etc. Finally, in imminent danger of running out of fuel in our aircraft (the pilot told the ground we were already "running on fumes"), our pilot was issued a May Day for emergency clearance, and his instruments also showed our running gear was stuck and not lowered, which was reported to the ground. So the airport crews foamed the runways, got out the emergency equipment, gave us a corridor, and in we came, prepared for a belly landing and more fun and games. Visibility was nearly zilch, and we broke out of the clouds at about 200 feet. Fortunately the wheels were down after all; the sensors were shorted or something. So we landed okay, after so many long hours in the air etc. When we finally stopped, one of the fatigued pilots got out and actually kissed the ground, and all of us felt like doing it. (Our companion plane had been damaged in the edges of that tornado storm, and had made an emergency landing back there at some obscure little airfield). We then got on a hastily chartered bus, for a 4-hour ride back to Virginia, where finally we arrived to find our wives and families waiting on us. The wives for the others on our companion plane still had to wait several more hours before another aircraft arrived that had gotten them out of there.
The picture vividly reminded me of that little escapade so many years ago. I have to admit I'm a fair weather flyer ever since that experience!
Subject: ANA Japanese B747]