Even though passengers would rather fly through clear skies than storms, thanks to modern technology, bad weather is rarely the only cause of a plane crash. That is because modern meteorology generally makes extreme weather predictable, and modern aircraft are designed to withstand most severe weather conditions.
Part of the job of aviation agencies and flight authorities is to monitor the skies using equipment that can see severe weather developing, allowing those agencies to take appropriate actions like issuing alerts, redirecting flights or grounding flights as needed to protect passengers, pilots, crew members, and aircraft themselves.
Most weather-related airplane crashes only occur when the weather combines with serious mistakes or oversights in maintenance and/or operational procedures.
One example is cold weather that can create ice on the wings of a plane during flight. This weather, combined with the failure to perform in-flight deicing procedures, could lead to a crash, because the resulting ice can interrupt the pattern of airflow over the wings and cause the plane to lose lift.
Although some weather patterns can be particularly dangerous to aircraft, technological advances have greatly minimized their risk where systems are functioning properly and pilots and crew follow proper procedures. For example, microbursts are quick downdrafts that often occur around thunderstorms, which can create dangerous wind shear and have been blamed for serious crashes in the past. But in 1988, the FAA mandated all commercial aircraft be equipped with wind shear detection systems. Since then, crashes related to wind shear have decreased dramatically.
Similarly, while decreased visibility and foggy conditions can sometimes be dangerous and at least, in part, have been blamed in the past for some large-scale crashes, advances in radar and runway lighting technology have reduced these risks immensely.
These days, with advances in technology on the ground and in airplanes, severe weather is unlikely to cause a plane to crash on its own. But these safety measures depend on the systems being properly maintained and used by well-trained pilots, crews, air traffic controllers, and others to prevent the types of avoidable disasters that can happen when bad weather combines with other mistakes.
If you or a family member has been seriously impacted by an airplane crash, the aviation attorneys at CaseyGerry have the expertise and resources to help. Our legal team has litigated high profile cases nationwide, and is at the forefront of aviation law.