How wake turbulence nearly killed a planeload of people

Back in March I reported on the case of a Challenger business jet that was caught in the wake vortex of a mammoth Airbus A380 over the Indian Ocean.  The bizjet was so badly damaged that it had to be written off after an emergency landing, and everyone on board was injured, some of them seriously.

More details have now emerged of the damage caused to the smaller aircraft, including this picture of the interior.

That’s some pretty spectacular damage.  Note the bloodstains, too.

Flight Global reports:

… the Challenger’s captain, who had been flying, told the German-led inquiry that the aircraft had “shook briefly” before rolling heavily to the left. Its autopilot disengaged and the crew had manually attempted to stop the roll with right-bank input.

“But the [aircraft] had continued to roll to the left, thereby completing several rotations,” says German investigation authority BFU.

. . .

The flight attendant told the investigation that she had been standing in the cabin before the upset, and four of the six passengers were also not seated.

“In her recollection the [Challenger] had turned three times around its longitudinal axis, during which the occupants had been thrown against the ceiling and the seats,” says BFU. “Several of the passengers suffered injuries, some of which were bleeding. She herself suffered minor injuries.”

Inspection of the aircraft after it landed at Muscat showed damage to the seats and panelling, and “traces of blood”, the inquiry adds. Armrests on four seats were deformed or fractured and two oxygen masks had fallen from their housing.

One passenger suffered head injuries and a broken rib, while another had fractured a vertebra. Two other passengers and the attendant had injuries including bruising and a fractured nose.

There’s more at the link.  It makes interesting reading for aircraft buffs.

The Challenger exceeded its structural limitations during its fall after the incident, and was so badly overstressed that it had to be scrapped after it landed.  Those aboard were very, very lucky to get back on the ground in one piece . . .



  1. It boggles my mind that people think they are perfectly fine, to unbuckle their lap belt(seat belt)while flying. FOOLS!
    The seat belt is not a panacea- but it is WAY preferable over the neck compression you get from hitting the luggage bin above you during a much more commonly encountered air pocket.
    And the reallly BS part-in such a scenario as the vortex- they are falling on YOU!

    They don't have to be uncomfortable~Save Yourself and your neighbors~ Please Wear Your Belts!

  2. I suspect things have changed, but 15 years ago, when I was training to fly into O'Hare, I had to take wake-vortex training. With the planes we flew (piston twins, small turbo-prop) we were told to roll with the vortex instead of fighting against it, so we wouldn't over-stress the plane. I'd done aerobatics so that made sense, but some of our other pilots didn't like the prospect. The other rule was push, don't pull, while inverted. The only time I had to use that training was not because of wake turbulence, but thunderstorm turbulence ahead of the storm.


  3. I wonder if the aircraft survived because of the altitude? The internal pressurization would add structural stiffness, perhaps enough to prevent buckling.

    They began with a well designed, well built and well maintained aircraft, but they sure needed a bit of luck as well.

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