OK Folks lets get a reality check here. This aircraft ran into severe hail over a period of 45 minutes and dropped or was forced down some 11,000 feet. It suffered severe damage and the passengers were frightened to death. This was very serious.
1. It is not required for this airline (BMI
) to have a certified flight watch/monitoring system that would have alerted the pilot to the weather ahead and given him advice to go around it and avoid it. Neither the UK or JAA has a requirement for licensed flight operations officers/aircraft dispatchers who would do this function and support the flight crew in flight with the latest information on safety issues such as this type of weather. In the US and elsewhere dispatchers are certified and required to advise the crew and plan around weather such as this. So the crew was basically on their own, with no enroute support from the airline. This is a huge hole in the European aviation safety system. They launch their aircraft off into God knows where and nobody is required to watch the flight and give it information as it proceeds. ATC can't do it, as they don't know what the aircraft and crew are qualified for, what fuel it has onboard, what it weighs, what its limitations are or what airports the airplane could go to and their radar is often not well equipped to see weather, just aircraft targets. But in the US and Canada there is a dispatch system which does provide this info, including weather ahead.
2. This flight had the encounter with the severe weather over Germany, was obviously significantly damaged, and yet this pilot, not knowing the true condition of his aircraft, continues on to his destination of Manchester, when there were plenty of good airports close by. What part of this am I not getting? He should quickly have landed at the nearest available airport, rather than continuing on, especially over water.
3. Regarding severe weather in Europe, the assumption that this doesn't happen like in the US is simply no longer true. Remember the Swiss SAAB 2000 from Basel to Hamburg that crashed at Berlin Werneuchen last July? After running into severe weather it then had its destination and its alternates close, yet he continued on into bad weather and was on the verge of running out of fuel (7 minutes left) until he landed on a closed runway and wiped off the gear? Those passengers also thought that they "were going to die". By the way, that one also had no licensed/certified flight following system either. And there were tornados in Berlin that day.
Its about time that Europe closed this huge hole in their aviation system. You can't just launch a flight off into the wild blue yonder and then just expect everything will be just fine while providing no support for it enroute. When one of my colleagues asked an official at a major international airline that also does not have this system, he said, "well the pilot will find out about it when he gets there". Well, that is exactly what happened this week to BMI
. And it will happen again and again until a lot of people get killed one day.