Thunderstorms Hiding In The Murky Haze
By: Don Stefanik
Jim Henry, now retired, was director for Canadair. His area of expertise is the structural strength of airframes. He is also an experienced pilot. A few summers ago he was flying his Challenger on amphibious floats (read heavy) from Cornwall, Ontario, to his home base at the gliding field west of Hawkesbury.
It was a highly convective day and there were thunderstorms developing. The distance wasn't great and visibility was good enough topreclude thunderstorms hiding in the murky haze so he decided to take off and keep a close watch in flight. Nearing Hawkesbury, he saw a thunderstorm bearing down from the west. It appeared that he would beat it to the field so he continued. If there was a problem he planned to turn tail and fly to another airport east of Hawkesburyto wait the storm out there.
On short final, the far end of the 2,000 foot grass runway disappeared behind a wall of rain. He did an immediate 180 and headed towards the alternate airport but it was to late. The storm swept him up and took him for the ride of his life. He kept trying to escape but to no avail. In the meantime he and the airplane were getting the pounding of their lives.
The airplane was beaten mercilessly to the point that it had to break. At times, he imagined that one or the other of the floats would hit the wing. Jim was carried 40 miles in the storm before finally breaking out of it a little beyond the airport he had originally departed. He landed safely in the water at Creg Quay near the Quebec border on the St. Lawrence River.
The airplane appeared undamaged but Jim took it to Aero Structure at Lachute Airport where they could go over it with a fine tooth comb. Amazingly they could find nothing wrong with the airplane. As a precautionary measure they replaced all structural bolts attaching the flying surfaces. In retrospect, Jim feels it was the riveted tube and gusset construction that allowed the airplane to absorb the beating where a more rigid structure may well have failed.
These stories are from Ian Coristine and his ( Thanks for the Memories) column and Copa Magazine.