June 29, 2008
I try to stay off of airplanes these days, but have logged 10,000 miles in the last month in spite of myself. So my eyes tend to linger on stories about aviation despite the aversion therapy being administered by the TSA and the airlines themselves. Two somewhat hair-raising stories today:
A Boeing 767 widebody cargo jet caught on fire at San Francisco International Airport last night. The fire was brought under control, but 100 people were evacuated from nearby cargo facilities. The plane reportedly was operated by Airborne Express, but that is lacking confirmation. If it was fully fuelled, this could have been horrendous.
Lightning struck an airborne jumbo jet and blasted a hole "the size of a dinner plate" in it. A LAN Chile Airlines plane, on approach to Auckland International Airport in New Zealand. Steve Creedy of The Australian writes:
The plane was among four aircraft struck by lightning last Wednesday as New Zealand was hammered by almost 15,000 strikes in 24 hours. An Aerolineas Argentinas plane was also damaged and two Air New Zealand aircraft were struck but emerged unscathed.
Experts estimate each commercial airliner is struck by lightning once or twice a year. While it can sometimes leave a burn mark, it is unusual for lightning to punch through the skin of a modern jet.
I see no encouragement for further air travel here. The new extra charges for checked baggage will not only cost me money, they will make boarding the plane slow, as everyone crams the overhead compartments full of baggage. I think I will stay home in Northern California for awhile, where lightning sets our forests on fire and makes the air unbreathable.
Hat tip: Airliners.net