Saturday, April 30, 2011

We're Not in Kansas Any More

At about 7:00 pm on last Wednesday I received an e-mail from my son that said: "Visually confirmed tornados headed NE toward Andrews. Looks like KVKX is in the path." I was in Connecticut and N631S was tied down at KBDR so my exposure was limited to the car that was parked in the hangar.

It turns out that the tornado in question, while just a pup in comparison with the monsters that decimated parts of Alabama this past week, was nevertheless a significant and damaging event. The storm called on KVKX, paying it just enough attention to damage a number of aircraft, then moved on to Andrews AFB. (UPDATE: There was a YouTube video here, giving a fine impression of the power of the tornado, but it's been taken down by the originator.)

I've fetched out some of the historic NEXRAD data for the time period and it certainly looks like a concentrated dose of nasty weather (click to animate):

When I arrived at VKX last evening after a flight down from KBDR I got a look at some of the aftermath. It's heartbreaking to see this sort of damage to aircraft.

N7508G is a 1970 Cessna 172K. I spoke with one of its owners who told me that the wing spar is bent and several floor stringers are deformed. The structural damage probably means that the airplane will be a write-off.

N86121 is a 1969 Skymaster owned by David Wartofsky (who also owns and operates KVKX). David may get to use his airplane again after the left wing is replaced and some damage to the lower vertical stabilizers is repaired.

As a Skylane lover, this one hurts. N3423R is a 1968 182L that clearly will fly no more. The storm picked this airplane up and smashed it to the ground. The prop is bent, the fuselage is twisted and nose gear collapsed and the wings bent. There's almost no part that's undamaged! The power needed to do that to a machine weighing in the neighborhood of a ton is awesome.

Here in the northeast/mid-Atlantic we don't usually think about tornadoes as a high-probability event. Tornadoes are things that happen in Kansas! But this is the second one at KVKX in three years. Let's hope we're not seeing the beginnings of a pattern.

1 comment:

Dave Starr said...

Wow. Glad that you,your family and 631S are safe, Frank. I hadn't realized the storm activity came that far north.

It certianly does happen though ... after more than twenty years living in Colorado, and several long-term stays in Kansas, the closest I have ever been to a tornado was a scary incident where a small one passed just a few hundred yards from me, as I watched loaded 40-foot freight containers fly past nearly overhead at, of all places, Military Ocean Terminal, Bayonne, just across from Brooklyn on New York's Upper bay.

Like you, I hope these 'exceptions' don't prove too frquent.