February 2001 Issue

Horizontal Tornadoes

What you think you know about wake vortex behavior may well be wrong

Recently I had my own “almost accident,” which reminded me of a problem that is only going to get worse.

It was Thanksgiving Day and the traffic going into Denver International was normal for any holiday. Our Boeing 727 was cleared for the visual approach and landing behind an Airbus 319. Since the 727 is heavier than the Airbus, and since we had sufficient separation distance, the thought of a wake vortex encounter didn’t enter my mind.

Just as I started to flare, we hit the Airbus’ wake and suddenly my wing dropped. It only takes 12 degrees of wing dip to strike an outboard flap during a normal landing in the 727. For a few moments, that wake had more control over the aircraft than...

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