Severe weather conditions: A scapegoat for fatal plane crashes?

One of the biggest news stories of last year had to do with an AirAsia flight seemingly disappearing into thin air. The plane, along with its 162 passengers, vanished from the radar while flying to Singapore from Indonesia. Recently, though, parts of the flight have been located in the Java Sea. What caused this crash to happen? The investigation is ongoing but severe weather may have played a role in this tragedy. According to some reports, the plane was subjected to lightning and storm clouds, as well as strong winds. Still, countless flights are subject to these same conditions all over the globe, and aviation accidents remain relatively rare.

Poor weather conditions are often listed as a cause of airliner accidents in Pittsburgh, as well as all over the world. However, the number of incidents caused by weather may be lower than expected. In the 1950s, weather was responsible for approximately 16 percent of large airliner accidents according to That percentage dropped to only six percent in the 2000s. A study by aviation industry giant Boeing shows that there was only one fatal aviation accident due to weather from 2004 to 2013.

Aviation experts say that commercial aircrafts have improved a great deal over the years and that they are now generally well-equipped to handle severe weather. Some of these improvements stem from the study of plane crash data from the past. However, experts also warn that no aircraft operations are completely safe from the dangers of hazardous weather. Bad weather can particularly dangerous during airplane takeoffs and landings, but dispatchers, air traffic controllers and many others are tasked with ensuring everyone’s safety.

As for the idea that planes can go missing, many say that the technology exists to prevent such things. One of the biggest reasons why this technology is not on commercial aircrafts is the high cost, but that may change in the future. In the meantime, many questions remain about the AirAsia flight, as well as the Malaysia Airlines flight from July 2014. Hopefully, once that plane is located, experts will be able to have a better understanding of what can be done to prevent these devastating accidents.

Source: Yahoo! Travel, “AirAsia Crash Begs Question: Can Severe Weather Bring Down a Plane?,” William J. McGee, Dec. 28, 2014