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Turbulence

rstark
Adventurer B
A popular cause of passenger inflight concern is the inevitable "bump in the road." Here are my thoughts on turbulence: Turbulence…. In a car, it's a bump in the road. In a boat, it's the smack of a wave on the hull. In a plane, to some people it's a white-knuckled ride on an out-of-control roller coaster. Think for a minute. Why do you suppose flying produces such a different response? Control issues? Not knowing what makes the bumps? Not really knowing what the bump's effect is on the plane? One business traveler professed to me the thought that he always envisioned the Pilots wrestling with the controls trying to keep the plane from diving out of control in moderate turbulence. I had to laugh because, at times we Pilots are worried: Will the contents of that soup spoon make it in our mouth or on our shirt? It only really gets bumpy when you try to take a sip of hot coffee. Wrestling with control? Hardly. Otto the AutoPilot is doing a fine job of flying the plane smoothly, and he does a better job in turbulence that a human can. But still, if I punched Otto off and let go of the yoke, the plane would wander on through the bumps with little change in direction. That is because the plane is designed to handle turbulence because of stability laws built into the plane by the engineers. (This Is Your Captain Speaking: Flight Training For Passengers goes into this in greater detail.) Turbulence is everywhere and all the time. Most of the time, its energy impact on the plane is barely noticeable. A little technical stuff that is critical to the understanding of turbulence. Bear with me here. This ain't Calculus. Lift is what keeps the plane up. The wonderful techies who engineered safe airplanes have learned that lift is a function of the square of the airspeed. (Don't nod off on me now!) In "Ray Simple Math," that means that if you are flying at two miles per hour (mph), the lift quotient is 2 x 2= 4. If you were going three mph it would be 3 x 3 = 9. The critical thing to realize is that, by increasing the speed here by 30 percent you get somewhere over 100 percent increase in lift. Think about that for a minute. Lift is the upward force holding the plane up. If you suddenly get more of it, the plane is going to do what? Right! It will bump up. In turbulent air (air that is unstable where masses or air are moving in different directions within a short timeframe), you are going to see rapid changes in lift on the wing. That makes for bumps. It's just natural. In the winter, jetstream winds at certain altitudes can blow at 120-160 mph. It sure isn't blowing like that when you get out of your car at the airport, so that means you'll be climbing into and out of that jetstream somewhere on your flight. Those are forceful winds!!! How can it not be bumpy? Air is like a liquid, and if you are moving fast enough, almost like a solid. That makes the ride choppier as well. Say you are moving through the air at 250 mph in an air mass that is moving up, relative to the plane at 20 mph. In a flash, the plane flies into a blob of air that is going down at 20 mph. That is a difference of 40 mph. A 40-mph gust blows your car around on the freeway, why not your plane? At least in a plane, you don't have to worry about wandering out of your lane. Remember, the HUGE surface area of your wing keeps you flying. That same HUGE surface area also catches the gusts and wind effects. (The huge tail surfaces keep the plane going straight like an arrow.) When I am riding along in the bumps, I know the plane is hitting winds from different directions because I can see the airspeed indicator bobbling around plus or minus four to six knots. When it's smooth, the airspeed hardly moves at all.That's just the way it goes. When was the last time you heard of an airliner falling apart because of bumps at cruise? I cannot remember such an event. Airliners are tested during certification. One test is the wing failure test. This test always gathers a bunch of employees because it is so dramatic a test of the wing structure. Nobody ever gets to witness a wing failure except in the test rig. One of the prototype airframes never leaves the ground. It gets installed in a hydraulic test rig that bends it to simulate thousands of hours inflight. Once the equivalent of 20 years of turbulence and bad landings is bent, jiggled, and wiggled into the fuselage, the wing is bent until it breaks. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the engineers have done their job in designing a wing strong enough to take the beating that Mother Nature passes out. Most heavy wings like the 767 or 777 bend up at the tips almost 14 feet before breaking in a loud "CRACK." I have seen my airliner wing bending in upper level moderate turbulence, and it hardly moves up and down a couple of feet. That gives you some idea of the safety margins designed into the planes we fly upon. Turbulence is no big deal to me, the Pilot. My only concern is whether someone is up and about in the cabin. People are injured because they have disregarded the FASTEN SEATBELT sign and been bounced off the wall or ceiling. I have never heard of a seated/belted passenger ever being seriously injured in turb. Turbulence may be exciting, but it isn't perilous. Not by a long shot. Worry if you want to, but you are just making stuff up. The Pilots aren't worried at all as long as everyone is seated. Are you worried your car wheels are going to break off when driving down a bumpy stretch of highway? Probably not. Think of that the next time you fly. Turbulence tip: Next time you drive someplace with a friend or spouse, have them drive and fill a small cup with water (about a quarter-inch from the top). Place the cup on a doubled towel (because it will spill a little) and hold it down on the console or the glovebox door. Now, as you drive around town and out on the freeways, watch what happens to the water in the cup: It spills all over the place (hopefully on the towel). Now, when you fly, try the same routine on your tray table: Fill a cup a quarter-inch from full and let it sit there while you bounce around. I bet the cup on the plane hardly loses a drop in bumps that you thought were "terrible." The cup shows you that the airborne turbulence was less bumpy than the road turbulence experiment in your car. And you were flying six times faster through the air than a 60mph section of freeway travel. A few bumps are normal!!!
49 Comments
Aaron_Mentzer
Explorer C
That was a great post! I've always wondered about turbulence, and this post has some great information. I especially enjoyed reading about the wing failure test, and how lift is calculated. I wonder if there's any way to see a photo/video clip of a wing failure?? This is such a great blog - keep it up Southwest!
roborob
New Arrival
Wow! I envisioned the same thing as your "business traveler" you mentioned..haha! I'd be interested in seeing those photo/video of the wing failure test. Actually, it would be cool to see and know about other stress tests put on airplanes. Thanks for the great post Cpt. Stark.
Jennifer_Singh
Explorer C
Yeah, fabulous post. Every time I visit this blog I discover there is so much I didn't know I didn't know. Thanks for linking to the "This is Your Captain Speaking" book -- I am gonna search my library's catalog right now to see if they have a copy to lend me!
joe-mdw-plane-d
Frequent Flyer C
We once sat in the very last row from dtw to phx and back. That is where the ride is the choppiest! I think my face turned every shade of color it could! I didn't need the doggiebag though.
Terry_Lessig
Explorer B
A&E had a fabulous documentary detailing the extensive testing the Boeing 777 went through to be certified airworthy. Could you address landing in surface turbulence, specifically Las Vegas. I've been on flights going in there where we actually walked down the runway a bit before both main gears were on the runway. I know it's partly due to landing with more power to have better control, but can any of these surface winds tip the aircraft enough to put a wing-tip on the runway? At what point would you abort and go around?
Leah3
Adventurer B
I fly frequently (I've flown thousands of miles, seriously!) & only twice have I experienced bad turbulence; both experiences were several years ago. The first time it happened, my parents & I were flying home from Chicago, & we had a rather bumpy take-off! I don't remember if the pilot was able to bring us out of it, or if it just stopped. The second time, I was flying home from Baltimore & changed planes in Atlanta. On the flight home from Atlanta, we had some bad turbulence for a little while. After I got back, I saw lightning off to the west when my parents & I were leaving the airport. Not long after we arrived home, it started storming. My mom said I made it home between storms, so I bet that explains the turbulence.
Mike9
Explorer C
Cap'n Ray, Great post but the link to "This Is Your Captain Speaking: Flight Training For Passengers" doesn't work. I'd really like to read it.
Not applicable
White Knuckle Flyers... Southwest Airlines has an excellent blog called Nuts About Southwest where employees post on a variety of topics. One regular contributor is Captain Ray Stark. Today he writes about turbulence, you know the stuff that makes the plane shake like...
blusk
Aviator C
Sorry Mike, the link is now fixed. Brian
Scott5
Adventurer A
Let's say I'm on your one-legged flight from Sacramento to Las Vegas and my (first-time ever customer) wife is with me and we encounter some moderate turbulence as cruise over the Owens Valley, what would be your best advice to me to help relax her. Thank You. I look forward to taking her on her first ever flight.
joe-mdw-plane-d
Frequent Flyer C
Scott, sit over the wing. I am told that is the smoothest area.
Scott5
Adventurer A
Thanks Joe.
Tamra
Explorer A
Joe, When my kids and I are flying on a trip, and we hit turbulence, I tell my kids a couple of things to calm them. First and foremost, I point out that our very fun and professional flight attendants do not seem worried. They are still up serving peanuts and cokes, and are smiling. I pointed out to my kids that the flight attendants do not seemworried and neither should they. Occasionally, the pilot will ask the F.A.'s to take their seats. That is so they will not spill coffee on anyone. So I tell the kids. It's really for everyone's safey. Also, we sit up straight in our seats, and watch the back of everyone else's heads bobbin' back and forth. It's really quite funny to see everyone's head bobbing in unison. My kids think it's funny to watch, and so do I. It takes their minds off of the bumps, and I remind them afterall, it's only "potholes" in the sky. Good luck and happy traveling!
Steve_Bradshaw
Explorer C
This is an awesome post. I am going to have my kids read this because even though they have flown every year since they were born, they still come up with some ideas about what the torbulance is from. And everytime it is a different off the wall reason. Ths is really going to help. Thanks
Carkye1
Explorer C
When I saw the beginning of this article I had to laugh. Somewhere I heard the quote "Life is like a roller coaster: there are a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, it was a good ride." Turbulence makes the ride more fun for me. Just like choppy wake makes a boat ride more exciting. I was glad to learn more about testing done during certification. Thank you for helping ease passenger concerns!
James5
Explorer A
Ray, thanks for this article. We have some pretty bad turbulence on one of my flights and I was able to use what you shared with some of the Passengers who were a little bit frightened. In addition, I was able to plug your book as a tool which might help them to overcome some of their other fears. Safe flying! James Malone
Sue9
Explorer C
When flying Oakland to Las Vegas, I frequently encounter turbulence. What times of day and times of year would you expect to encounter the least turbulence and when would you expect the worst turbulence?
Danielle_Q
Explorer C
I would just like to say I am a frequent flyer - enough to have a "companion pass" and turbulence only bothers me when it goes on for awhile and before nor during did we hear from the cockpit. Just a message to pass to your fellow captains - we like to know you're up there! Thanks for getting my butt safetly around the US all these years : )
Peter_M_
Explorer C
You can see how turbulent your next flight will be at www.turbulenceforecast.com
James5
Explorer A
Peter, thanks for posting the Turbulence Report link. I think many people wil find that helpful. James Malone / SWA FA
Captain_Ray_Sta
Explorer B
Sorry! I am having real problems responding to your questions! I crafted a nice item-by-item (over an hours work!) response and the blog ate it! I'll have to do my work in Word next time and post te results from that. In the meantime, if you have any airplane questions, check out my "Ask Captain Ray forum on www.takingflight.us Thanks for your patience! Ray
Captain_Ray_Sta
Explorer B
1. I wonder if thereÃ
Not applicable
[...] There’s an excellent blog being written by Southwest Airlines, and an article was just posted by Ray Stark about Turbulence that should answer a lot of your questions and concerns, all with a Southwest twist. [...]
FriendofBlogBoy
Frequent Flyer B
Scott -- you're approaching LAS with your nervous, first-time flying wife? Hand her the credit card and give her a kiss. If that doesn't relax her, nuthin' will.... Captain Ray -- I don't believe that turbulence is as benign as you claim. After a number of years of flying, I'm noticing that more and more your 737s are showing severe wing fatigue. An increasing number of your planes have had the tips of their wings bent straight up by all of that choppy air. You don't fool me! Kim P. S. Oops, Brian Lusk just told me that those are blended winglets, nevermind! LOL :) To all of you White-Knuckle Fliers out there -- the above post was a joke. The winglets are a terrific cost-saving addition that SWA implemented years ahead of much of their competition! Refer to the following and take comfort: http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2003/q2/nr_030617g.html and to see them up close, check these out: http://www.southwest.com/images/swamedia/winglets_lg.jpg http://www.baltimoresun.com/media/photo/2005-09/19562739.jpg Happy flying! Kim 🙂
Laine_S_
Explorer C
This is a great site! Thank you Southwest for doing this. I've been a fearful flyer for about 13 years after having 2 pretty turbulent flights. Before then I'd flown all the time with no fear at all. I've been working on "curing" my fear ever since. I even lived in Japan for 5 years and had to endure the 12 hour flights from Los Angeles. I usually just drank myself silly to calm down. My husband and I are going to West Palm Beach via Tampa from Phoenix this Saturday morning. I'm already getting nervous - checking the weather forecast every day. I HAVE to beat this! I love seeing other places but it's just getting there that ruins it. It helps SO MUCH when the pilots give announcements to the passengers, especially about turbulence. If they sound in control, that helps tremendously. Thanks also for this blog site. Wish me luch for Saturday!!!
Jim_Nettleton
Explorer C
A couple of things . . . . . . I used to make at least one flight a month from Reno to Portland ( a long distant relationship) and I thoroughly enjoyed the humor emanating from the cockpit as well as the microphone of the flight attendants. I was scheduled to retrun from Portland, Oregon to Reno Nevada on 9/11 . . . . when my then significant other told me that a very strange and curious event had occurred that morning. We tuned the TV to a local Oregon news station ( we were in a beach house in Lincoln City, OR) and the images i saw on the screen I first believed to be from a Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzennegar movie. But no . . . . is was really happenning. Needless to say, the Portland Airport was shut down, and I could not expect a flight until the following Friday or Saturday. Many people had chosen to drive. Me being a stubborn American (Vietnam era Vet) said no . . . I would fly as soon as the airport opened up (with a great amount of extra security, I might add). So I immediately called in work and THEY told me I would not be back on time. But I did get Southwest flight back to Reno on Friday (maybe Saturday). I am happy to report that even thought the plane was not full, there were many others who, like myself decided that we would not cave in to terrorism. . . . . . . and the Pilots and the Flight Attendants (God Bless them . . .) still maintained their sense of humor. . . . . . . I'm not sure is this was the same flight, but an announcement was made that there was an elderly gentleman on board celebrating his 80th Birthday AND his first airline flight. . . . . . . so we all applauded by clapping and hooting, and then, when the noise subsided, we were further informed that he was sitting in the right seat of the cockpit!!!!! I will never forget that . . . . . Jim Nettleton
Jim_Johnson
Explorer C
Great Post, Capt! Your readers might also want to know about what goes on behind the scenes to help all of us fly a little more comfortably. In Southwest Dispatch, we try very hard to plan routes and altitudes that will avoid areas of possible turbulance. With advances in technology and weather prediction, we have access to information that can actually predict turbulance with approximately 75 percent accuracy and higher. Our passengers, crews and aircraft are our greatest assets, and by applying the information to routes and altitudes we can usually file flight plans that will keep us out of the worst areas of turbulance. If unable to steer our flights around it, or over or under it, we can alert the pilots to possible upcoming turbulance, which will allow the pilot to get everyone (including our wonderful flight attendants!) seated and strapped in. Of course, there is always a chance to encounter unexpected and unpredicted turbulance (and therefore, its always best to wear your belt while in your seat)...another of our best tools for avoiding turbulance are the Pilot Reports (PIREPS) from people like Capt Ray. If they hit some unexpected turbulance, they report it to dispatch and we can advise flights behind him of what to expect and possibly avoid a similar experience on the next aircraft. IN any case, at Southwest our policy is that we will not fly you into any turbulance forcasted greater than 'a little bumpy' (and the pilot will be notified of that). Sometimes that means taking a little longer way around to get to your destination, or (something you probably wouldnt notice) a change in altitude. As Capt Ray mentioned, there is little danger to the aircraft from turbulance (in spite of what you see from hollywood!)...the aircraft is designed to take much more than any of us would be willing to. We promise to do our best to keep your flight 'bump' free. But if the unexpected does occur, just strap yourself in and trust your plane and pilot...we have the absolute bes in the business! Jim Johnson proud SWA employee, Dispatch
FriendofBlogBoy
Frequent Flyer B
For those who are still a bit skittish about the safety and stability of SWA's impeccably maintained fleet of 737's, let me offer you a story from the realm of 'famous airplane lore' at Boeing. In 1955, Mr. "Tex" Johnston, one of Boeing's test pilots at their headquarters in Seattle, was flying a plane then known as the 367-80, or by its short form, the 'Dash 80', in a demonstration flight for visitors to the city's hydroplane races on Lake Washington. To prove to the onlookers just how wonderful this plane was, as well as to impress them with its stability and structural strength (and with his own flying ability, no doubt), Tex put the plane into a simple barrel roll. A plane doing a barrel roll continues straight ahead in the same direction of flight it was in, but 'rolls' in a 360 degree circle as one of the wings begins to rise and just continues on over until the plane is still flying forward but is upside down. This manuever keeps going until everything is back rightside up again. The Dash 80 was the prototype for what later became the famous 707. That particular plane that was the center of much attention after Tex's flight, is now on display at the National Air & Space Museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Washington, D. C. Here is a video of the event: http://www.aviationexplorer.com/707_roll_video.htm Now, if the early 707 was THAT safe 51 years ago, imagine how safe today's 737s are with all of the advances in avionics (the onboard electronics that help control a plane) since then! So, even if Captain Ray decides to do a barrel roll on your flight, the worst that would happen is you would probably spill your little bag of peanuts! But, if he does, please don't go and tattle on him to Colleen. She probably wouldn't be any more keen on him doing that than Tex Johnston's bosses at Boeing were! So, sit back, relax and feel very confident that those great folks in the cockpit are in control of a very well-built airplane! Kim P. S. Cap'n Ray? If you ever decide you want to do a barrel roll, could you give me a few days' notice? I want to be onboard -- I wouldn't miss THAT for the world!! 🙂
Kirk1
Explorer C
The best way to overcome fear of flying is to be armed with the facts and I really appreciate all these nuggets of information on the science of turbulence. What I would be interested in learning more about is CLEAR AIR turbulence. I've flown over a million miles in my day, and I've gathered the following empirical data: (1) Anytime you pass through a cloud, no matter how wispy, you get bumps. This makes sense because a cloud is basically whipped-up air and moisture so there has to be wind present. (2) Anytime you fly around a big anvil cloud atop a thunderstorm you get bumps. Makes sense because it's a violent chunk of weather and the air surrounding it is unstable. (3) Anytime you fly over a low blanket of clouds that look like a quilt, the air is very smooth. I have supposed this is because the cloud layer represents the highest point of convection in the atmosphere and there's no disturbed air above it. HOWEVER, I can't quite come up with any reasoning for bumpy air when you are flying out in the clear blue with full view of the ground below. Hot ait rising from the earth's surface? Eddys off the jet stream? Very dry air that can form no clouds from the wind? Enquiring minds (who use knowledge to calm themselves in the air) want to know!
Isabel
Explorer C
Excellent article!!! I flew from San Antonio to Baltimore on what was a very turbulent flight and was pertified. Reading this article has calmed my fears toward future bumpy flights! Thanks.
Josh_L_
Explorer C
WOW! Let me say that again, WOW! What a great article & a bunch of wonderfull responses. I have always had a fear of flying (still do) so much so that I once got off a plane with my wife when we were about to close the doors & get going. Luckily, I have been able to psyche myself up & have taken many flights since that day. I like most people HATE turbulence. But I always figure that if the plane is still on it's course, we are ok. I am about to make the flight from Burbank , CA to Vegas. This flight is notorious for stomach churning turbulence come summer. We are leaving late in the day on our way out & back in. I feel a lot better reading Captain Ray's blog. When you wrote the example of a water glass in the car & on a plane, it really put things in perspective. I will make sure to pop an anti nasuea pill an hour prior to the flight & sit back & relax. Thanks Captain Ray & all of the SWA Reps. Sincerely, Josh L., Simi Valley, CA
Robert_Clark
Explorer C
Great post, just found your blog! Fine work. Ciao
Scott5
Adventurer A
I want to thank the pilots of Dec 8th Flight 753 who took very noticeable actions to minimize our bumps on our flight to Sacramento. Actions that included adjusting flight speed and subtle course changes. Flying into the leading edge of Pacific storm will always have bumps. Thanks again guys.
Scott5
Adventurer A
Here is a link of the photograph of the plane that helped our pilots do such a great job on our Flight 753 back on Dec 8th. http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1156478/L/
Not applicable
[...] Some useful additional reading: a Businessweek article about Southwest entitled “Customer Service Champs;” Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success; and Southwest’s own weblog, which is how I learned that turbulence isn’t as bad as it seems (though it still freaks me out.) [...]
Matt_Schwarck
Explorer C
Thank you for the information. I'm flying on Saturday and am nervous, especially since I'm going over the Rockies. Matt
Cygnus
Adventurer C
Want a sure cure for fear of turbulence? Fly around in a Cessna 172 on a summer afternoon over Washington, DC. It got rid of mine! I've been there, Matt; we landed on a United flight through a thunderstorm, which was most unpleasant. But Capt. Stark is right about the liquid test. For me, I think it all comes down to dealing with the lack of control. As if I have all that much control over who's next to me on the interstate. 😮
Greg_S_
Explorer C
On a Southwest flight from BUF to BWI on a Boeing 737 last night (8:40p.m. departure, delayed to 9:25p.m.), our plane experienced what I can only describe as two brief but sharp free falls. I'm curious to know when turbulence stops being turbulence and evolves into something more serious - like free fall. For a full two seconds the plane literally fell - people screamed and what happened next surprised me. Nothing. The captain offered no explanation and neither did the flight attendants. What I thought was most interesting was that the up-beat, camp-counselor attitude of the flight attendants went from chipper to stone cold after this little in-flight "incident." Sure would like to know what happened on that flight last night... Thank you, A very satisfied Southwest traveler
Not_Goin_Down
Explorer C
Despite your post, Mr. Pilot, turbulence is very dangerous. Because regardless of the fact that you're working with thousands of feet between the aircraft and the ground providing an enormous safety net for unexpected changes in altitude, the fact of the matter is you should be telling these people that during turbulence, you've technically lost momentary control of the aircraft. Sure you can adjust throttles and effect turns, but the response isn't going to be very obvious until you've passed through the air disturbance. I flew in severe turbulence one afternoon which ocurred at take off. I used to love to fly, but after this experience, that all changed. I was certain we were headed towards the ground. Obviously turbulence experienced at low altitudes during take off and landing is even more dangerous and poses an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft, especially at those levels. So before you go luring these blog readers into believing that turbulence is safe and perfectly normal, well it may be a normal encounter, but it's hardly a safe normality. Thanks for the article Captain Wings but your opinion is flawed and the information you're conveying is inaccurate, not to mention the fact that your analogy that involves the car and cup simulation is just ridiculously stupid.
Kelly_H
Explorer C
I just flew from Newark to Miami on a 757 and then to Key west on a smaller plane. As always, I was so nervous despite the somewhat uneventful flight. Upon returning home, I found your sight and read all of the posts and felt so great until the last one! Can you ease my mind again and help to explain what happens when a plane drops suddenly...and how dangerous is taking off? Thanks...now that I'm on the ground I feel safe and rational, but I'm sure when I take off, I'll be thinking about this last post. Thanks so much. Kelly
Lynn_C
Explorer C
I have most certainly been uncomfortable on flights with turbulence that is announced /forecasted by the pilot however to deal with it I usually watch other passengers who don't appear to be disturbed so am usually able to calm myself until it passes(with the help of a small dose of Xanax pre-flight). On a recent flight from PHX to OKC, on the evening of 10/2 when our plane went through the edge of a thunderstorm as we were descending to land, the turbulence was so extreme (including lightning flashes around the plane), that everyone on the plane freaked out. The pilot said nothing over the intercom prior to or after the event. I would hate to even imagine anything that could happen that could be worse, although I know people that have experienced it. I will double my dose of Xanax before I fly again.
Ray11
Explorer C
i recently came off a Southwest flight last week from manchester nh to phoenix. we encountered mountain wake turbulence over the rockies. this is a pretty normal phenomenon and i fly boston to san jose constantly. i would tell you that this turbulence was the worst i have ever encountered in 12 year of flying. there was nothing normal about it. the flight attendants were nearly in tears. this plane not only lost altitude quickly but dove to the left and to the right and shimmied left and right on a horizontal axis. when we landed the pilot talked about what had happened and while scary we were never in any danger. i would advice anyone who reads this site to search for mountain wave turbulence and rotor clouds. oh and the pilot indicated that it was the fault of the new controller during shift turnover. the controller leaving didn't update the new guy on the turbulence reports in the area.
Vince
Explorer C
To see the video of the wing failure test, here is one on youtube for the 777: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe9PVaFGl3o
Bruce
Explorer C
This is a wonderful article. Understanding the physics as to why it is safe to fly through tubulance is great but I still think emotional factors can have a huge impact. I have recently been on a flight where turbulance was the second worst I have experienced, it was at night and we were flying on the edge of a storm system . The captain made announcements before the flight and several times during the flight as to what was going on, and to "enjoy the light show on the right" because it was a rare treat to see this much lightning. His calm voice and demenor calmed many of the passengers who would have otherwise been rattled. Basically he was saying to us "we know this is worse than you have probably been through but we are fine up here so you can be assured that everything is ok." It is one thing to "know" it is going to be ok, it is another to have the captain take 10 seconds out every 20 minutes to let you know. Most of the passengers poked their head into the cockpit to thank the crew for their reassurance. I certainly did.
Anonymous2943
Explorer C
I used to think that turbulence was nothing more than a few bumps with the occasional quick drops now and again. That was before my flight from Birmingham to Orlando this evening. It changed my whole perspective on air travel and flight turbulence. I'm not posting this comment to scare people or keep them from ever flying again ( I know I will fly again) but to inform fliers that there is alway a chance that a "bump" can turn extremely frightening to even the most experienced passengers. Our pilot warned us that leaving Birmingham could be bumpy but should smooth out after sometime. The fasten seat belt sign remained on during the entire flight. It wasn't until at a high altitude and 40 minutes into the flight (skies even looked clear) when we hit what some called turbulence of the highest degree. The drama began with a loud popping sound (I was sitting next to an engine) and a sudden drop as if we lost one of the engines on the 737. The sudden drop happened in a flash so it seemed. But during that flash the flight attendant who was standing in front of me was all of the sudden lying on the floor clutching at the seat supports. People all around me started screaming. Two kids on my left started crying. Panic was in everyone eye's, especially the flight attentant on the floor in front of me. The plane was shaking and was diving what seemed like forever. I thought we had lost an engine and were heading down for an emergency landing if that. I must admit that I thought to myself that this could be it. My life could end in a stupid plane crash. After a few moments that seemed like an eternity my senses came back to me. I heard a deep voice behind me repeating "It's gonna be ok, It's gonna be ok". As we continued to dive I asked the flight attendant lying on the ground if this was indeed just turbulence. The answer from the passenger behind me and the flight attendant on the floor was YES. Wow, and I use to think that I'v experienced rough turbulence before. Anyway, it turns out that 2 passengers and 2 flight attendants were not fastened in. One flight attendant hit her head on the ceiling as she pushed the two passengers to the floor for safety. Kudos to her. We didn't hear of anyone being seriously injured but I'm sure a few people will be sore tomorrow. We made it down on the ground but all the talk from the passengers aboard were of the horrific experience we had. Rumors began stirring about the pilot and his air speed at that altitude and about what really happened. For me, I'm just glad that we made it home safely without any major injuries. I also want to inform fliers that turbulence can be more than just bumps. This type of turbulence might be rare and may never happen to you OR it could happen on your second flying experience (like my girlfriend next to me). The point is that we all need to understand that it could happen and to be aware of it. I'm just glad we made it home and the plane stayed together..
neha
Explorer C
... i simply love u for this ... i m bout to take a flight n was damn scared about turbulence..... but ur article made me feel relaxed.......thanks a dozen......
Anonymous3151
Explorer C
This article is great except for the part about bending 777 wings 14 feet during testing. I was on a 747-400 once from Hong Kong to S'pore and we hit "Heavy" turbulence (as described by the pilot later). People were ooohing and aaaahing and some people were crying, I saw the toilet cubicle up ahead turning from a rectangle outline to a parralelogram outline as the planes hull twisted, that really made me concerned. I also saw the wings going up and down to what I reckon was more than 14 feet at the tip. I just sat there and hoped that the engineers had done their job when designing and testing wings. Maybe 747 wings are more flexible than 777 wings? Anyone know? Anyway, in 15 years of flying, has only happened like that once.
Anonymous1110
Explorer C
i am petrified to fly.im ok if its smooth but when its bumpy i panic grab any one next to me..im flying swest jan 20th from las vegas to tampa and i pray its smooth.i look at turbulance.com but it always looks bumpy? i thought winter is smoother then summer?
Kathy_V
Explorer C
Thank you soooooo much for this article. Turbulance is a huge fear for me, this helps tremendously.