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Breaking News

Wind Shear Suspected in Singapore Airlines Crash

Aired October 31, 2000 - 12:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... because of the severe weather that it may have been a phenomenon known as wind shear. And let me just walk you through a little bit of a primer on this.

This is a 747 400. It's the same model of the airplane that Singapore Airlines was flying. The way an airplane flies is the relative wind going over the wings generates lift. It requires a certain amount of lift to make the airplane fly. And any wind that is blowing on the nose of the airplane over that wing can be added to what speed is needed. But if the wind is going the other way, then it has to be subtracted to it.

In wind shear, you get something called a microburst, and let me show you what a microburst looks like. This is from the FAA. It's something called "The Airman's Information Manual." It's a -- it's a bible of sorts for pilots and also for instructors to be able to show you.

This is what wind shear actually looks like on paper. These are the two winds. They meet each other head on and they descent down in a microburst and split up one way and the other way. Now, what you see, if you look very closely, at the bottom part of this is a small airplane that they have shown for a demonstration. And this airplane actually goes through, it's climbing up because it has a head wind, and as it hits the wind shear, the winds shift to a tailwind, the airplane begins to descend back down right there because it can no longer fly, it no longer has enough wind going over the wing.

Now, Jeanne, we have some animation, and I believe this is actually from the screen of a Doppler radar, which is one of the ways that you can see this. And if you can look at this animation, this is what a wind shear looks like. You see the burst of wind coming down and then moving out from the side, and the wind is such a velocity that it can cause you to get downdrafts in the speeds 2, 3, 4, 5 thousand feet per minute, which exceeds the climb capability of the aircraft.

The aircraft is very vulnerable in takeoff and in landing, because it needs that speed over the wing, and it is just in the transition phase from taking off to getting out.

Now, if they had hit wind shear at a point, if they're coming along like this and they hit the wind shear, it could cause the plane to settle back into the runway, and when it settled back into the runway, that could be the bumps that were felt. And of course, the airplane is now hitting -- doesn't have enough speed to fly, it has too much to stop right at that point. The crew is doing the best they can to get it stopped, probably brakes, and you know, and then it broke up.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: One very quick question: Aren't there instruments that would detect wind shear, and if there were wind-shears in the area, wouldn't they have stopped takeoffs?

ROCHELLE: I would assume that that airport knew about it. They wouldn't necessarily stop it. They would advise the crew.

There are two things. One is the Doppler radar, which looks very much like what we just saw in the animation. The other is a set of wind socks and anemometers at different places around the airport, which would tell you that the wind in this direction is from here, but over here, it runs from that direction. Then you call a wind shear alert to the crew. They'd make the call on whether they could take off or not.

MESERVE: Carl, stand by. Jim Hill joins us now. He's at Los Angeles Airport. That, of course, was the destination of this flight.

Jim, what have you learned there?

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, about 25 minutes from now, we should be hearing officially from Singapore Airlines. The airline has scheduled a news conference for 10 o'clock Pacific Time -- that would be 1 o'clock East Coast time -- here at the Los Angeles International Airport, Tom Bradley Terminal, the international terminal, where this aircraft was due to land and unload the passengers at 6:15 this evening. That would be 6:15 Pacific Time.

It's roughly a 15-hour flight from Taipei to Los Angeles. Singapore Airlines, we understand, is one of the more popular routes and airlines taken by frequent business travelers to that region.

So with 161 passengers on board, 17 crewmembers, there is a very good chance, of course, that a number of people in the Los Angeles area would have been on that plane, a lot of concern now and interest by people in Los Angeles, loved-ones, of course, wondering about their relatives.

Very good news, of course, compared to only about an hour ago when it was not known if there were any fatalities. Now, of course, Singapore Airlines saying no fatalities that they know of: 30 injuries, and none of those injuries, at least from what we're hearing, are considered life-threatening. So, that is encouraging news compared to what it might otherwise have been.

As I say, it's about a 15-hour flight that would have been landing in Los Angeles at 6:15 Pacific Time, 6:15 this evening. So it's far too early for people to be at the airport hoping to pick up their friends and loved-ones. But once again, Singapore Airlines will be holding a news conference a little less than 25 minutes from now here at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport. And we'll be learning more about what is going to be done at this end to accommodate those who are at this point very, very concerned about people who are on board that flight -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Jim Hill, thank you. And stay with CNN for continuing coverage of this air crash.

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