‘We’ve hit turbulence!’: Why it’s okay to relax

Should you be worrying about a bout of turbulence sending an aircraft down? Source: Shutterstock.

SEASONED TRAVELER OR NOT, a sudden rough patch while cruising at 30,000ft in the air strong enough to rattle a Boeing 777 can reduce even grown adults to tears. Nevermind the nervous flyer.

And by “rough patch”, we mean turbulence.

Turbulence isn’t uncommon.

Just last week, Air India’s flight AI-462, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, faced severe turbulence. For nearly 15 minutes, the aircraft rattled uncontrollably, resulting in one of its window panes coming loose and injuring six of its passengers.

In May last year, shocking footage of AirAsia X’s flight D7377 experiencing severe turbulence made its rounds on social media. The footage showed the cabin crew on the ground, with trays of food scattered around them.

The episode left five passengers injured.

Here’s the bad news: The aforementioned cases definitely won’t be the last ones. In fact, climate change is likely to increase instances of turbulence.

Climatologists have weighed in on the effects that global warming could have on air travel, predicting there will be an increase in cases of severe turbulence by over 64% in Asia, 161% over Europe, and 185% over the North Atlantic in the next 40 years.

Before you start panicking and running for the hills, here’s what you need to know the next time the pilot turns the seatbelt sign on when a dreaded bout of turbulence rocks the aircraft.

What causes turbulence?

It’s basically instability in the air around the plane.

Turbulence is usually caused by sudden wind shifts, air pressure, flying through clouds, flying in and out of a jet stream, temperature changes, thunderstorms, and other atmospheric conditions.

Different aspects of the weather cause different types of turbulence. Source: Shutterstock.

Turbulence is usually categorized from light to extreme.

In the past, turbulence generated by thunderstorms has caused accidents.

But it’s unlikely that the new generation of aircraft will go down that easily as they’ve been designed to withstand forces one-and-a-half times stronger than anything experienced in the last 40 years of flying.

It’s normal, it really is

AskThePilot.com‘s Patrick Smith confirmed this, writing, “For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash.”

“Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal. From a pilot’s perspective it is ordinarily seen as a convenience issue, not a safety issue,” he added.

Pilots also know exactly when it’s going to happen, thanks to pre-flight weather reports, the cockpit radar, and reports from other plans in the area.

Pilots also have to trust other people with their lives like Air Traffic Controllers. Source: Shutterstock.

Also, pilots have been trained to fly around atmospheric conditions.

So trust your pilot.

More is being done

Technology has got your back.

Airlines are doing everything that they can to keep passengers are comfortable as possible, from revamping interiors to designing better seats. The companies are also testing a new system that can help airlines avoid turbulence altogether.

Such as using an ultraviolet laser-based device to send pulses into the air and identify minor changes that indicate clear air turbulence lies ahead.

Always keep your seatbelt fastened. Source: Shutterstock.

Pilots have their seatbelts on at all times so do the same.

Buckle up, enjoy the ride.