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Delta Airline Flight 191 Case Evaluation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Aviation
Wordcount: 1000 words Published: 10th May 2021

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Microbursts are hazardous to aircraft during take off, landing or when generally in low levels. An aircraft that encounter a microbursts will experience a sudden increase in headwind (Mersereau, 2014). The rise in headwind shall be indicated in airspeed parameters, which is very dangerous because it increases the likelihood of pilot error or disorientation (Skybrary, 2018). A pilot may, for example, be made to reduce power of the engines when flying at a set speed designated for landing or take off. This action is dangerous because the microbursts wind affects an aircraft to cause a tailwind. The effect resulting from tailwind is a rapid decline in lift and increase in indicated speed.

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A significant encounter with microburst has a potential to cause an aircraft to lose height or force it to the ground. Further, the affected performance due to tailwind will cause more lose of altitude and force an airplane into stall. The only way an airplane could survive a microburst would be flying ahead through it. It should maintain the direction and increase speed (Skybrary, 2018). The pilot should avoid taking a turn or engaging any maneuver operation because it would increase the severity of stall, worsening the situation.

The flight crew had a received weather forecast warnings that indicated possibility of thunderstorm and scattered rain shower. When flying over Texas and Oklahoma, the fight dispatched thunderstorm warnings. Besides, the air traffic control notified the flight crew that there was heavy rain and storm north of the airport. An aircraft that Delta Airline Flight 191 was following even experienced a storm and heavy rain to cause lose of visibility (NWS, 2011). Despite all these crucial warnings and weather alerts, the air control and the flight crew did not take an action to prevent a catastrophe. The pilot was cautioned on several occasions to watch airspeed of the plane by the air control. The warning was not heeded by the pilot leading to lose of height and airspeed necessary for appropriate landing and emerging of the microburst.

The flight crew and air control should have been very vigilant in this case because much of the eventualities leading to the crash was noted beforehand. The crew should have been more cautious about the weather because their onboard instruments had indicated the presence of thurnder and heavy rains (FAA, n.d). These weather elements are catastrophic to airplanes for they increase the likelihood of crashes. These elements require pilots to be experienced enough to steer the plane through it. It is an incident caused by ignorance in the conduct of flight crew and air control. From the facts of the case, it is clear that the flight crew and the air control had knowledge that there was storm north of the airport where the designated runway 17L was (NWS, 2011). The pilot should have aborted the landing for the conditions for landing were not met. Instead, he was cleared to land on ILS because visibility was zero. 

The case is one of misinterpretation of weather and ignorance of key alerts during flight by both air control and the crew. It is interesting that crew and air control at this time did give wind shear the deserved respect. They were fooled by the fact that two plans had landed using instrument landing system (ILS) in the same weather. All weather instruments indicated lightning and heavy rain but were not taken into consideration when clearing the aircraft for landing (FAA, n.d)). The problem was that the crew and air control did not take into consideration the idea that wind patterns could change. They ignored the possibility of sudden changes in winds. The air control were at wrong because they should have utilized airborne radar to observe for changes in weather picture. It would have assisted profoundly.

Besides, it is indicated that the procedure in pilots hands advised on the use of TOGA mode, which was a right action for it would allow the crew to abort the flight. The problem with this mode was that it was not optimized to allow pilots to come out of wind shear. Investigation revealed that the plane would have survived if they crew would have engaged the TOGA mode properly (NWS, 2011). The nose of the airplane was negative rather than positive at the time of crash. This is one thing that stands out in the case because pilots were not trained well enough to utilize TOGA mode.

One of the method for detecting microbursts is Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR). It is a sophisticated method because it is able detect microbursts at any height. It is not limited to ground level alone as seen in other microburst detection methods (Skybrary, 2018). It is a wind shear warning method that has the capability to detect any movement in small particles, including dust particles. It is an effective method compared to other conventional radar-based methods because it can detect microbursts caused by both terrain and weather conditions like heavy rain and thunderstorm.



FAA. (n.d). Accident Overview: History of Flight 191. Retrieved from: https://lessonslearned.faa/ll_main.cfm?TabID=1&LLID=32&LLTypeID=2

Mersereau, D. (2014). Explaining Microbursts, One of the Nature’s Most Dangerous Wind Storms. Retrieved from: https://thevane.gawker.com/explaining-microbursts-one-of-the-natures-most-dangerous-w-1643929336

NWS. (2011). Delta Flight 191 Incident at DFW Airport. Retrieved from: https://www.weather.gov/fwd/delta191

Skybrary. (2018). Microburst. Retrieved from: https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Microburst


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