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EASA publishes safety information on wake vortex
22 June 2017

EASA published a Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) to remind pilots and air traffic controllers about the risks associated with wake turbulence encounters at high altitude and about the applicable precautionary measures.

The bulletin was issued in the wake of an accident that occurred on January 7, 2017. A Challenger 604 corporate jet suffered a severe in-fight upset after passing through the wake of an Airbus A380 that had passed overhead with a vertical distance of 1,000 ft. The aircraft suffered a significant altitude loss after completing several rotations along the longitudinal axis. Forces exceeded the airframe certification design load limits. Nevertheless, a safe landing was made.

EASA notes that wake turbulence can persist for several minutes behind the generating airplane, naturally descending. Actual motion strongly depends on the prevailing wind and atmospheric conditions. The likelihood for an airplane to encounter severe wake turbulence generated by another airplane is very low but cannot be excluded. Typically, the so-called Heavy and Super heavy aircraft are more prone to generate stronger vortices, although there is potential for other large aircraft types as well.

EASA is continuously monitoring with interested parties the risks associated to wake encounters en-route and published the SIB to inform the community about precautionary measures.

For example, pilots are warned not to use large rudder deflections when trying to respond to a wake encounter. Also, intentional disconnection of the autopilot can complicate the recovery.

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