Contracted Military Transport Aircraft Skids Off Runway While Landing In A Thunderstorm In JacksonvilleRead Now
A second aviation incident within a week for the U.S. Military that likely involves flying in and near thunderstorms has made the headlines. Late Friday night, May 3rd, 2019, a military transport Boeing 737 skidded off the end of the runway and into the St. Johns River at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida while landing during a thunderstorm. No fatalities were reported of the 143 occupants, of the Miami Air International contracted flight, although 21 people were reportedly transported to the hospital.
A weather report taken from the Naval Air Station within 2 minutes of the reported incident showed a thunderstorm with heavy rain overhead, and frequent lightning. Surface winds were gusting to 18 mph, and the visibility at the surface was reported at 3 miles. About half an inch of rain had fallen in the 20 minutes prior to the incident, likely leading to some puddled or standing water on the runway.
Of particularly interesting note, according to the flight radar tracker, the plane landed approaching from the west, facing east, while the wind direction in the weather report about 20 minutes prior to the landing showed a light northerly crosswind, and, more importantly, the weather report within 2 minutes following the incident showed wind gusts of 18 mph from the west-northwest, which would have functioned as a tailwind, adding roughly 17 miles per hour to the landing speed of the aircraft - hence requiring a longer distance to completely stop, especially in wet runway conditions.
Combined with turbulent conditions likely just off the surface associated with the thunderstorm overhead, it is possible that the airplane may have been difficult to handle, as mentioned by a witness on-board.
Thunderstorms often contain powerful undrafts and downdrafts - sometimes on the order of several thousand feet per minute, as well as dangerous wind shear. While the thunderstorm involved in this incident did not have any "severe" weather indication, frequent lightning and heavy downpours were reported during the time of the crash.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association's Aviation Weather Center published a Convective Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET) which was valid for the area warning aviators of these thunderstorms.
According to archived radio transmissions from LiveATC.net, the Jacksonville Approach Air Traffic Control warned of heavy precipitation at the destination airport several minutes before the landing was attempted, offering clearance to the runway facing the west (into the wind). The pilot then replied that he would check the weather as he flew closer to the airport. A few minutes later, the air traffic controller advised the east-facing runway, which ultimately landed the aircraft in the river.
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