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22.04 : EK003 Encounters Weather Balloon  
User currently offlineReLAX From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 26 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 17266 times:

I was on EK 003 yesterday evening. When we were on approach to London, just having passed Canary Wharf, there was a distinct thump and the 777 banked right. I didn't think much of it - perhaps just rogue bit of turbulence. 30 seconds later, the captain came over the PA and announced that we had just collided with a meteoroligical balloon, but all was well.

Questions: 1) why would there be meteoroligical instruments flying over central London, and more importantly, in the path of Heathrow traffic and 2) what sort of damage could such an instrument do to the aircraft?

Discuss.


"Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?"
56 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineRobTrent From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2005, 260 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 17250 times:

It beggars belief ! Out of interest, what altidude do you estimate the aircraft was at ?

Regards
R



T7 - You know it makes sense !
User currently offlineMusapapaya From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1089 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 17211 times:

Did the pilot carry on the approach on initiate a go around? This is strange to me. Anyone have any clue what material is that balloon made of?


Lufthansa Group of Airlines
User currently offlineZeke From Hong Kong, joined Dec 2006, 9097 posts, RR: 75
Reply 3, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 17183 times:

Those balloons are sent airborne all over the world, to collect atmospheric data which is very important for the meteorological models and computerised flight planning systems that are in use. The actual winds will also influence the actual North Atlantic tracks for that are used for a particular day.

The most damage it could do would be like hitting a reasonable sized bird. Had something similar happen to me near HKG.

Seen NOTAMS for these to be released around, and enroute to some fairly large airports sometimes on a hourly basis.



We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking – Santosh Kalwar
User currently offlineAerosol From Germany, joined Oct 2000, 558 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 17087 times:

I was on a flight from IST to DUS where I have seen a weather balloon swooshing by. Distance is hard to estimate as I do not know how big they are.

User currently offlineStarGoldLHR From Heard and McDonald Islands, joined Feb 2004, 1529 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 17060 times:

I dont know the flight but I saw an Emirate A/C approaching LHR, from CW and thought I saw a flora london marathon balloon going spring loose and sail up to the skies.

About 18pm... definitely Emirates, A340 series, I remember bragging to my girlfriend I could guess it's tail. Didnt think it got even close though from my view point on the Thames.



So far in 2008 45 flights and Gold already. JFK, IAD, LGA, SIN, HKG, NRT, AKL, PPT, LAX still to book ! Home Airport LCY
User currently offlineSabena 690 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 16952 times:

Sorry to go off topic, but I spotted you yesterday evening above Belgium! About eight minutes before you flew over COSTA (where you started crossing the North Sea).

The registration was A6-EMM if I'm not mistaken...

Regards
Frederic


User currently offlineReLAX From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 26 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 16952 times:

We must have been at about 3,000 - 4,000ft. And no, there was no go around (guess all systems reporting normal?). The approached proceeded as normal - even with the overhead projector showing the forward camera.

I was shocked by the captain even announcing the event. All of us in business class looked at each other as if to say "does this mean an emergency landing?"



"Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?"
User currently offlineRobTrent From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2005, 260 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 16921 times:

Quoting StarGoldLHR (Reply 5):
I dont know the flight but I saw an Emirate A/C approaching LHR, from CW and thought I saw a flora london marathon balloon going spring loose and sail up to the skies.

Aha ! it probably just slid past if it was Flora spread.
Sorry for the crap Joke

R  Smile



T7 - You know it makes sense !
User currently offlineDaleaholic From UK - England, joined Oct 2005, 3208 posts, RR: 13
Reply 9, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 16786 times:

Being a 'balloon' I doubt much damage could be done. Must've been fine if the pilot landed as usual.


Religion is an illusion of childhood... Outgrown under proper education.
User currently offlineCorey07850 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2527 posts, RR: 5
Reply 10, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 16710 times:

Quoting ReLAX (Thread starter):
1) why would there be meteoroligical instruments flying over central London, and more importantly, in the path of Heathrow traffic

I'm sure it wasn't intentional... The balloon could have been released many miles away but the winds have carried it across your path. Since you estimate you were at 3 or 4,000ft, so it's not like you were on final approach... I doubt any balloons would be intentionaly released within a couple miles of the airport.

Quoting ReLAX (Thread starter):
2) what sort of damage could such an instrument do to the aircraft?

I wouldn't think anything that serious, however there are things it can do. Attached to the balloon is the actual instrumentation to make the recordings and I'm sure this isn't exactly light. It could possibly crack a windscreen or dent the leading edge of a wing or something. While not exactly life threatening, it could down the plane or maintenance and cost some $$$

I would think the worst case scenario is the balloon covering a pitot tube or maybe knocking a radio antenna off. However since large aircraft have multiple of each, it's still not that big of a deal.


User currently offlineA346Dude From Canada, joined Nov 2004, 1283 posts, RR: 7
Reply 11, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 16651 times:

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 10):
Attached to the balloon is the actual instrumentation to make the recordings and I'm sure this isn't exactly light.

IIRC, it is actually fairly light. When the balloon reaches an altitude where the pressure differential is so great that it bursts, the instrumentation falls back to Earth. It must be light enough so as to do no damage if it hits an object on the ground.



You know the gear is up and locked when it takes full throttle to taxi to the terminal.
User currently offlinePackman From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 88 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 16628 times:

I was at Heathrow early yesterday afternoon taking a few photos when a bunch of helium balloons passed over runway 09R between terminal 4 and Hatton Cross at about 1000 feet. Fortunately they crossed the runway between departing aircraft but I don't know whether they were spotted by the tower personnel.

Packman


User currently offlineCorey07850 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2527 posts, RR: 5
Reply 13, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 16615 times:

Quoting A346Dude (Reply 11):
IIRC, it is actually fairly light. When the balloon reaches an altitude where the pressure differential is so great that it bursts, the instrumentation falls back to Earth. It must be light enough so as to do no damage if it hits an object on the ground.

You're right, I did some research and found that radiosondes typically weigh only about 250 grams


User currently offlineEK773 From Malta, joined Jul 2004, 235 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 16615 times:

Yesterday in JFK i watched a red balloon float past my window as we turned onto the runway for take off for EK204 to DXB. It looked the size of a normal kids helium balloon.

User currently offlineDaleaholic From UK - England, joined Oct 2005, 3208 posts, RR: 13
Reply 15, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 16494 times:

Could a balloon be dangerous if ingested by the engine? I mean a small kids balloon.


Religion is an illusion of childhood... Outgrown under proper education.
User currently offlineFLY2HMO From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 16459 times:

Quoting Aerosol (Reply 4):
do not know how big they are

The ones launched from my school have a 15 ft diameter and they're made out of latex, they are pretty much just a giant party balloon.

Quoting Daleaholic (Reply 15):
Could a balloon be dangerous if ingested by the engine?

I doubt it, they throw frozen chickens at the engines during testing, and they keep running fine.


User currently offlineNoah008 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 37 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 16133 times:

they throw frozen chickens? thats crazy what else do they throw at an engine for testing? and doese anyhting come oiut the back side?

User currently offlineLXLucien From Switzerland, joined Mar 2005, 264 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 15984 times:

Hi

Some sort of balloon don't cause damage at the engine...
even a small bird you don't even realise it... maybe a little bit of turbulence at the engine and a soft smell of chicken inside the cabin (that's really no joke  Smile!)

LL



Quote "Syriana": "Beirut, it's like Paris in the Mid-East"
User currently offlineBO__einG From Canada, joined Apr 2000, 2771 posts, RR: 18
Reply 19, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 15892 times:

They also shoot chunks of ice into engines as well during testing.
Also lots and lots of water for to simulate a heavy rainfall or monsoon.
For the chickens, well despite being all frozen once it is inside the engine and takes on the superheated gases it will litteraly spray out blood from the rear end in the area around a thousand degrees.

You dont want to be sprayed by superhot chicken blood.



Chance favors the prepared mind.
User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29799 posts, RR: 58
Reply 20, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 15858 times:

Actually when you consider that every weather obeservation station in the world sends up these ballons twice a day I am surprised it doesn't happen more often.


OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
User currently offlineBoysteve From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 939 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 15402 times:

Quoting Noah008 (Reply 17):
they throw frozen chickens? thats crazy what else do they throw at an engine for testing? and doese anyhting come oiut the back side?

This reminds of a funny but true story. It's not directly related to commercial airlines but I feel it is worth telling none the less.
When British Rail was testing the High Speed Train in the early to mid 1970's they wanted to ensure that a bird strike could not break the windshield and thus injure the driver. They knew that NASA tested the windshields of its space vehicles by firing frozen chickens at them at very high speeds so decided to do the same. Every-time they carried out the test the windshield smashed beyond recognition and British Rail staffed could not work out why their test was failing. They made a phone call to NASA to explain their findings and to determine why the tests were giving different results. The answer that came back from NASA was loud and clear; "We thaw them out first".


User currently offlineGeo772 From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2004, 519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 15237 times:

Remembering back to my days at school I went on a trip to a site that launched weather ballons. These were about 8ft high on the ground but only about a foot to eighteen inches across at the widest point. I forget how big they got to at altitude but it is pretty enormous.

Contrary to popular belief fresh chickens are used on engine bird stike tests, for the simple reason that in nature a frozen bird cannot fly into an airplane engine.

The Ice tests are done to check that the engine can still run with cowl icing, a most undesirable occurance.

It is also quite rare for an engine birdstrike to result in the bird going down the hot core of the engine, normally they end up being flung down the cold stream duct and it is usually a horrble mess.



Flown on A300B4/600,A319/20/21,A332/3,A343,B727,B732/3/4/5/6/7/8,B741/2/4,B752/3,B762/3,B772/3,DC10,L1011-200,VC10,MD80,
User currently offlineGreenjet From Ireland, joined Aug 2001, 956 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 15097 times:

Quoting StarGoldLHR (Reply 5):
About 18pm... definitely Emirates, A340 series, I remember bragging to my girlfriend I could guess it's tail.

You know your aircraft liveries but you can't tell the time  Wink


User currently offlineBoysteve From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 939 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 15097 times:

Quoting Greenjet (Reply 23):
You know your aircraft liveries but you can't tell the time

Haha, thats funny!


25 OyKIE : When we sent up Weather balloons at Andoya Rocket Range, we had to notify the tower at Andoya Airport to get a clearance so that they could clear the
26 UA935 : Urmmmm, well done on identifying the tail, hope you didn't brag to your girlfriend that you knew the type! EK003 is always a 777, never an A340.
27 OldAeroGuy : This story is one of those great urban legends. I've heard versions of it told for 40 years, although this is the first time I've heard of the vehicl
28 HARLEYF150 : Spot on Frederic Emirates 0003 yesterday was indeed 777-300 A6-EMM
29 AirbusCanada : well, a frozen chicken almost made two aviation giants RR and Lockeed bankrupt. When RR was developing RB211 with for Lockeed L-1011, they threw froz
30 Kaddyuk : A Thousand? Not Likely... the exhaust gas of most engines is around 700 Degrees Since when have EK EVER operated A340's into LHR?
31 OldAeroGuy : Another version of the urban legend. If a frozen chicken had been used, the test would have been re-run with a thawed bird. Unfortunately, the RB211
32 Trent900 : But you have to remember, a frozen chicken or lump of ice can be broken up fairly easily by the fan blades. A weather balloon on the other hand is ma
33 ZakHH : Guess the same guys who worried about an emergency landing would have cried outrage if they heard about the incident later on and were not informed o
34 Kdtwflyer : Do balloons ever show up on TCAS?
35 Bohlman : How did the captain know within 30 seconds that it was a weather balloon that he hit, and not something like a regular balloon, Harry Potter, or, more
36 Flight777 : I can remember when I was in high school...many, many years back...I was in the Navy ROTC program. I lived in Gaithersburg, MD just north of DC and I
37 LH463 : Wow what a story. These weather balloons are a pain in the a**. There is one down by Key West Florida that has it's own airspace 0-14,000 ft MSL. It's
38 Post contains images United787 : Huh? Downing a plane sounds life threatening to me. I didn't know Yoda was an aviation enthusiast.
39 Corey07850 : it was a typo... It should have read "Downing the plane FOR maintenance"[Edited 2006-04-24 05:39:23]
40 Post contains links BCBHokie : There's an American show called MythBusters, aired on the Discovery Channel, where two stunt technicians test various urban legends to see if they're
41 AR385 : If the ballon gets lodged around some major control surface, it can create major havoc. Granted, it may be a rare event, but I deem it negligent on th
42 Captainstorck : Chicken Nuggets..........
43 Tugger : That is a DEA (or some other federal agency) survaillence balloon. They use it to track the drug runners and various other traffic in that area. Ther
44 OyKIE : The weather balloon we used did not have any rope attached. We just let them go and tracked the balloon and the instrument box gave us data all the w
45 United737522 : I am surprised that a weather balloon would not just be pushed away by the air pressure around the plane before striking it and also have the ability
46 Jcf5002 : Not likely again because TCAS runs off information being brodcasted by an aircraft's transponder (if I am not mistaken) as opposed to an actual radar
47 Post contains images Justplanecrazy : Do aircraft encounter frozen chickens,how do they fly and how do they escape from the supermarket?
48 OldAeroGuy : These sound like Jessica Simpson questions.
49 Starrion : I hit a largish mylar balloon while on a downwind leg in my C-172. The only damage was to the air traffic contollers ears from the yelp I let on on th
50 Post contains images Chksix : I guess the chickens were descending from FL400 and then not keeping traffic separation. It's quite cold up there
51 Post contains images Mika : Shot the sucker down
52 Flaps : I dont think that Key West balloon is that much of a nuisance. They've been sending that thing up for as long as I can remember. Just cruise a bit to
53 BWI757 : Yes, we all hate airline food and wish we could throw some of it out the window... BWI757
54 Post contains images OlegShv : A group of students from our school were launching "weather" baloons just last month in Ohio. Those went up to 95000 ft, then it bursted and descended
55 OldAeroGuy : That's pretty cool. Can you post some? How did you keep the camera batteries warm enough so the camera would function?
56 Post contains images Tbnist03 : I would like to see these pics as well. Please post them somewhere, or if nothing else, possibly email em?
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