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Originally posted by Zaphod58
As I said in the other thread, most likely hail. If something solid, like a bird or small UAV as some have speculated had hit, it usually results in a tear in the skin, and the pilots usually see it before impact. When the USAir flight landed in the Hudson, they saw the geese a good three seconds before impact, there just wasn't anything they could do. They immediately reported it as a bird strike as well.
I've seen a number of aircraft come home with everything from peeled paint, to dents in the skin from flying through thunderstorms (both with, and without hail). Rain and hail can do a lot of damage to an aircraft at those speeds. And even a large hail stone is not likely to be seen before impact.edit on 6/6/2013 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)
An Air China Boeing 757-200, registration B-2856 performing flight CA-4307 from Chengdu to Guangzhou (China), was climbing through FL260 when a large bang was heard from the nose section of the aircraft and the aircraft performance worsened. The crew stopped the climb and returned to Chengdu for a safe landing with a "slightly rearranged radome".
Post flight examination raises the suspicion that the aircraft may have collided with a foreign object, a bird strike was ruled out however due to lack of blood, feathers or any other bird remains.
The only other thought that occurs to me is that they didn't hit anything at all... What I mean is that there was a structural defect in the dome itself, and the dome just collapsed under pressure. The sound of the dome “giving out” (denting in) could very well explain the “thump” that made them think they struck something
Originally posted by defcon5
Zaph's comment about the ice is very good, and I would have never thought of it myself. The only issue I have with ice is that it normally is going to be in the tops of a thunderhead, and aircraft will avoid those areas because they can literally bend or tear the airframe. Pan Am used to have an B727 called the “bent bertha”, which you could look down the nose and see the frame had a bow to it. This was the result of flying through the top of a thunderhead. If the pilots where in such a location, they would well have known about it.