Thursday, March 30, 2006

Windshear



This last Sunday afternoon I flew from JFK to Mexico City. The international station code for Mexico City is “MMX”. Mexico City sits at 7,300 feet above sea level higher than the bases of most ski resorts. The city sits in a great plain that was once a manmade island city in the middle of a great lake. The plain is surrounded by many volcanoes, some of which are still active. This airport gets special attention from a pilot’s perspective due to the surrounding mountainous terrain, high altitude, volcanic activity, and notoriously low visibility. This day the winds were strong and gusty, the ride uncomfortable for the passengers. When we were cleared for landing by the tower we were given a wind shear advisory. A wind shear is when two air masses that are close to each other move in different directions. An aircraft flying through a wind shear can experience a rapid decrease in the air moving over its wings. In a worse case scenario this could cause an aircraft to stall and lose altitude.

After wind shear was understood, warning systems were placed in modern airliners and pilots were trained on how to detect and escape from wind shears. We practice these maneuvers during our recurrent training.

At about 300 feet above the ground I felt a distinct tail up movement of my jet followed by an airspeed change of 20 knots. At the same moment our wind shear alert system indicated a wind shear. Any of these indications warrants an escape procedure. The procedure is to go to full power on the engines and raise the nose to about 15 degrees. After doing this we were out of the shear in a matter of seconds. This told me the shear was not a big one but procedure is procedure. We flew around the pattern and did another approach; the winds were still buffeting us all the way to the ground. A real wind shear alert is something most pilots will only see in a simulator. Now that I have encountered a wind shear I am satisfied that my training and therefore the training of thousands of other pilots is very good.

It was Sunday and the parks were full of families, lovers, vendors, and dancers. I have added a couple of pictures of sights in the park we walked through. I had chicken enchiladas to die for at Café de Taguba. The mole sauce is dark brown. We flew out the next day under sunny skies and light winds. Be safe, FlyGuy.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dan Gradwohl said...

FYI.....terrific blog!

Small error in this entry: MMMX is the four-letter ID for Mexico City while MEX is the three-letter ID.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Rick Barlow said...

Hey Dan, Rick Barlow here. If you like this blog be sure to check out his podcast site at http://joepodcaster.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=106092# for the audio versions of this blog, very excellent. Makes me wish I thought of this... Funny thing running into you here in cyberspace, makes me wonder what the odds of that were. Hey Joe, how about that as a possible topic for the next show? How many times pilots cross paths and the sometimes bizzare locations they encounter eachother? I know I've come across friends all over the world, in this industry it's easy. You?

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Antonio de la Peña said...

Very nice post. I came looking for windhsear standard procedures and your anecdote is a good start. Just another little correction: the place where you ate the enchiladas is very old and famous but its name is Café Tacuba, the same as one of Mexico's greatest rock bands who had to change the name to Cafe Tacvba over a dispute with the formentioned restaurant. I'm glad you liked Mexico City and hope you can come back to our country. I'm from Guadalajara.

4:55 PM  
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4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a passenger on a commercial flight into Mexico City on 4/3, and we had to do the same procedure. It was very unsettling as a passenger because we were given no information from the pilot about the circumstances. Thank god and well trained pilots that everyone stayed safe!

5:07 PM  

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