A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Mar 2, 07:52 -0800
There's an article on the Aviation Week website (http://aviationweek.com/business-aviation/air-sweden-crj200-freighter-downed) describing the crash of a medium-sized jet freighter over northern Sweden in early January 2016. Basically the pilot saw an indication from a failed inertial orientation unit that indicated the aircraft had pitched up 30°. Startled while in the middle of reviewing a landing checklist, he pushed the plane into a dive and then lost control. From 33,000 feet the plane plummeted in a terrifying, steep dive, approaching the speed of sound, with no clear indication what had happened, and in less than 90 seconds there was nothing left but a fiery crater in the empty wilderness near the border with Norway.
On the night of the accident, the sky was clear and moonless. The stars would easily have revealed that the aircraft was in stable, level flight. Unfortunately, as investigators learned while flying as observers on a similar later flight, it is normal to turn up the cabin lighting while reviewing the landing checklist. Their dark adaptation would have been fried, and only the brightest stars would be visible (none directly ahead on the heading they were flying that night --Andromeda and Pegasus dead ahead). So once they were nose down, there was nothing but blackness outside. There are no towns or roads in this region --no artificial ground lighting. It's sad though. The stars could have saved them. Just a quick glance at the stars, a sanity-check on the instruments, would have revealed that something was wrong.