By Mike Smith of Meteorological Musings. ( a video and reconstruction follows – Anthony)
At 9:30am this morning, a long-overdue memorial to the victims of Delta Flight 191 was dedicated at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport’s Founder’s Plaza. The crash occurred twenty-five years ago, August 2, 1985, at 6:06pm.
The Lockheed L-1011 departed Ft. Lauderdale enroute to Dallas and Los Angeles, but crashed short of the runway in a violent storm known as a microburst (a description of a microburst is here). One hundred thirty-seven passengers and crew lost their lives along with one motorist. A number of the survivors had life-altering injuries. The stories of loss (for example, www.star-telegram.com/2010/07/31/2375338/the-weekend-that-redefined-loss.html ) are simply overwhelming.
For the eight years prior to the Delta crash, there had been a fierce controversy within meteorology and aviation over Dr. Ted Fujita’s theory that an undiscovered atmospheric phenomena that he named a “downburst” had caused a string of jetliners, starting in 1973, to crash. As I explain in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather, the consensus was that Dr. Fujita had misinterpreted what was actually occurring in these thunderstorms.
In spite of volumes of evidence in his book and in peer-reviewed papers, the consensus in meteorology was downbursts didn’t exist.
After Delta 191 crashed, Dr. Fujita was brought in to investigate and, within a few months, found data that convinced even the doubters that downbursts (and their smaller version, microbursts) were mortal hazards to aircraft. Other investigations were also conducted including the National Transporation Safety Board’s and those of various attorneys retained by the airline, the government, and the victims. A messy, too-long trial followed the crash where people like Gene Skipworth, the air traffic controller who competently attempted to guide the flight to a safe landing, were dragged through the mud.
With the benefit and perspective of time, we can look back and realize: For all of the tragedy of that evening and its immediate aftermath, a great deal of good has come out of the Delta crash.
read the rest here: