Flights and how planes work is a mystery for many plane passengers and one simply has to put faith in the pilots’ capabilities. Turbulence is the most common concern for fliers. It can vary from mild disturbance to being jolted violently in your seat. It is caused by different masses of air colliding at different speeds and directions. But how much should it actually concern passengers? Is there a time when it really does signal bad news?
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A pilot revealed to Express.co.uk that turbulence should, in fact, never concern fliers.
“In all honesty, passengers should never worry about turbulence,” he said.
“The aircraft is designed to take the stress and strain of turbulence. For example, it’s like designing a car with good enough suspension to drive over a rough surface road with potholes.”
In short, pilots are not worried about turbulence – avoiding it is for convenience and comfort rather than safety.
In the best circumstances, pilots can forecast where turbulence is and steer clear of it.
“We use met data and forecasts for jet streams to avoid potential areas,” the pilot said.
As airline pilot Patrick Smith explained in his book Cockpit Confidential: “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 graded on a scale of severity: light, moderate, severe and extreme.
Extreme is rare but still not dangerous, although the plane will subsequently be examined by maintenance staff.
Turbulence does still cause some injuries, however. “Each year, worldwide, about a hundred people, half of them flight attendants, are hurt by turbulence seriously enough to require medical attention – head, neck, shoulder and ankle injuries being the most common.
“That works out to about 50 passengers. Fifty out of the two billion or so who fly each year.”
It’s key to follow crew’s orders and wear a seatbelt when turbulence hits as the majority of injuries are caused by people who fall or are thrown about because they weren’t strapped in properly.
If you want to limit the effects of turbulence the smoothest place to sit is over the wings, said Smith, it’s “nearest to the plane’s centre of lift and gravity.
Steer clear of the rows of seats at the back closest to the tail as “the knocking and swaying is more pronounced.”
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