No, I did not take the plane

by Volker Weber

Wing touches the ground in crosswind approach to Hamburg last Saturday.

[Thanks, Hajo]


One hell of a brutal crosswind - and one of those moments that makes even the best pilot realise he is mortal....

Nick Daisley, 2008-03-03

Actually, when I first saw this on the news this morning, my initial reaction was: What an excellent job the pilot (and his team, supposedly) has done in getting the plane out of this situation in one piece. But my second thought was: Did it really have to get this far? Shouldn't the tower have told them not to try a landing in these conditions?

I'm really not an expert on aviation and I see that these gusts must be next to impossible to predict exactly. But the weather in general was such that (afaik) one had to expect such gusts. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to divert the plane to a different airport or wait until a local storm center has moved away from the airport?

Ragnar Schierholz, 2008-03-03

I'm with Ragnar on that one. That looked like brutal crosswinds

Paul Mooney, 2008-03-03

That is the reason why you need "those magnificent men in their flying machines" aka pilots to fly a plane. An autopilot is not just enough. Even today. This pilot was really very brave and well trained.

Cem Basman, 2008-03-03

Slightly off topic: Love the new ads ... :-)

My favourite so far: "Notes and Domino. And Guinness."

Michael Sedlaczek, 2008-03-03


Sorry this is not brave this is irresponsible from both, the pilot and the airport authorities!

Claude Lehmann, 2008-03-03

I think, its British Airways who is to blame. The weather report said it clearly, that would be one very bad storm, the German Weather Service (DWD) issued an storm warning, the storm was all over Germany and it lasted quite a lot of ours, so I guess the situation was clear even before they made it for takeoff.

It is the final responsibility of the pilot to give a clear for take off, but he is under pressure from his employer to flight, otherwise it is just lost money.

Gregory Engels, 2008-03-03

Well evidently from the film he was setting off again to do a 'go-around' (my sentence assumes a male pilot, I just realised, but we don't know that) - but do we know whether another attempt was made to land there, or try a different runway, or another airfield entirely?

Nick Daisley, 2008-03-03

@Greg, FWIW, most news reports seem to be saying that it was a Lufthansa plane. But we can blame BA anyway :-)

Ed Brill, 2008-03-03

It was a Lufthansa plane. It went around and landed on the other runway it should have been assigned to on the first run. Looks like ATC will have to answer some questions there.

Volker Weber, 2008-03-03

It was realy as close as it can get: look at this spotter foto.
BFU (Aircraft Accident Investigation Office) is investigating and the PIC (AKA "hero") doesn't give any public statements.

Hajo Schmitt, 2008-03-03

Finally LH044 MUC-HAM has landed happily at CNN.

An amazing media phenomenon. The insident took place on Friday 1st March around 1300 local time in Hamburg. The video was published the same day a couple of hours later. I saw it Saturday morning (about 160,000 views) and published as one of the first in Germany. All day the story more and more people discussed and published it in Twitter and via blogs. In the late afternoon it went online at Bild, the largest German tabloid. In the evening the German TV news showed the video. All Sunday newspapers had it on the frontpage with photos from the video and other. Monday evening at local time it is now on CNN. The original video clip counts now 1,892,736 views.

This is probably one of the most popular video clips of 2008. And maybe one of the top 100 stories of this year.

Cem Basman, 2008-03-03

@Hajo, that is an incredible picture.

@Cem, 2 mm views is not record-setting on this side of the Atlantic, but it is impressive. This is also a common phenomena, where something finally bubbles up to, and then it is "big news" -- days after the fact is not unusual. Look at the Prince Harry situation last week -- was reported in German and Australian news weeks ago, but until it hit US media, was not a major story.

I don't know why this is.

Ed Brill, 2008-03-03

All those people blaming the pilot etc. It may well be his fault, it could also have been a gust that was way above that which was being announced.

However every pilot knows how to do the calculations concerning crosswinds and if it is safe to land their plane, and that final decision is down to the pilot, perhaps the pilot was having a bad day and hadn't done a crosswind landing in a long time, it's possible.

The thing is, we're in no position to blame anybody, we have hardly any facts, we have a video and a description of the weather that says "it was really bad" that's about it.

Personally I'd wait for the report before passing judgment.

Carl Tyler, 2008-03-03

@Cem: Please check your dates - you probably mean SATURDAY, 1st of march, not friday. All your weekdays had to be shifted by one day.

The difference between friday and saturday 1400 local would be approx 70 km/h in windspeed: weather on friday, as opposed weather on saturday.

It was definitly the worst point in time on saturday, when the front and the gusts reached there peak in Hamburg.

Hajo Schmitt, 2008-03-03

Hajo, you're right :-)

Cem Basman, 2008-03-04

Within 24h the video gained another 1mm views and is now at 3mm views. Amazing.

Cem Basman, 2008-03-04

On the daily news we yesterday had a DFS person saying 'it is the pilot's responsibility to chose whether to start or land - he should not have started' on the specific question whether that runway was the worst possible choice by them. Blame- shifting all around, and in such a stupid way. I am so looking forward to the real report.

Alexander Koch, 2008-03-04

US media is reporting that the plane experienced 100 MPH (160 KPH) crosswind gusts, which if true suggests that there was a sudden extreme phenomenon (perhaps of the type known as a microburst, which has been implicated in numerous crashes). Commercial airports should have detection systems for such cases, but there's definitely the possibility that gusts were undetectable until just a few seconds before the plane reached the runway. There are certainly many unanswered questions, but it is obvious that ATC would have diverted the pilot to another airport or kept him on the ground at the departure point, and that the pilot would not have elected to attempt the landing if either of them had expected winds that strong.

Richard Schwartz, 2008-03-04

A lot of aviation experts here :-)... any pilots too?

Cem Basman, 2008-03-04

Yes. Several.

Volker Weber, 2008-03-04

Yes pilots here. People here are freaking out about high wind speeds. If the wind is coming straight down the runway at 100 mph then a plane could still land, it just wouldn't have to taxi very far :-)

The key information which I have seen no one here say, is the wind speed and direction and the runway heading. Without that information, no one can make a statement that the crosswinds were too great. Have a play here to see how crosswind numbers can be very low even in high winds.

Also as Alexander states, the ultimate decision is with the pilot, ATC folks are there for advice. ATC often says things like turn left and when you do you sometimes see another plane straight in front of you. If pilots did exactly as ATC said every time there would be many more crashes. However if ATC has closed the airport that is a different matter, I don't believe anyone had closed this airport.

Carl Tyler, 2008-03-05

Thank you, Carl. Very informative. The incidence is now under investigation by the German air traffic control authorities.

Cem Basman, 2008-03-05

Ironic. My wife happened to be in Hamburg last week visiting friends (congrats Ksenija on your election!) and warned me Friday night that she might not make it home to Chicago because of bad winds that were expected on the day this video was taken. I'm glad she was taking off and not landing... It is Hamburg landings (starting over 15 years ago) that have made me more and more afraid of landings than anything when flying. I can't say that I've experienced anything this extreme, but every landing in Hamburg feels like landing at an angle to me. This pilot showed serious skill and strength in keeping everyone safe... Amazing.

Steven N Fettig, 2008-03-05

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