Is Turbulence Getting Worse? Air Canada Turbulence Injures 35

Recently Simple Flying has reported on some fairly nasty turbulence-related incidents. While these are terrible, it got the Simple Flying team thinking, is turbulence getting worse?

Air Canada Boeing 777 Turbulence
An Air Canada Boeing 777 was forced to turn around following severe turbulence. Photo: Air Canada

Turbulence is a funny thing. The invisible moving currents of air can go completely unnoticed on some days. Other days you may experience a fairly bumpy ride. However, sometimes turbulence can cause the plane to move so significantly that injuries are caused. Thankfully, for the time being, these incidents remain rare. However, just yesterday an Air Canda aircraft en route to Sydney had to divert to Hawaii after turbulence injured passengers.

Air Canada incident

Yesterday an Air Canada Boeing 777-200 was forced to turn around and return to Hawaii. The aircraft, operating flight AC33, hit severe turbulence injuring 37 passengers. The aircraft was flying at FL340 according to the Av Herald. After turning around, it took the aircraft a further 2-hours and 15-minutes to touch down.

There are varying reports regarding the number of injuries. While the Av Herald claims 35 passengers were hurt, the BBC reports 37. According to the BBC, nine of these people received serious injuries. An Australian band happened to be onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident. They posted to Facebook, reminding people to wear their seatbelts. Air Canada told the BBC that all injured parties had been released by the hospital.

Is turbulence getting worse?

Turbulence is set to get much worse. While this will be driven by climate change, thankfully the worst effects are still some time off. In fact, according to the University of Reading, turbulence could have increased by as much as 181% at 39,000ft by 2050-2080. The worst hit area will be the North Atlantic, which is an incredibly busy flight corridor.

What can be done about turbulence?

Boeing is currently working to develop a laser which can detect clear air turbulence. Boeing’s Lidar system uses pulses of lasers to detect changes in the wind. The system is only good for 10 miles right now. Unfortunately, this means that the pilot only gets around a minute of warning before encountering the turbulence.

Air Canada Boeing 777 Turbulence
Turbulence is set to get worse with increasing temperatures. Photo: NASA

While this won’t be enough time to turn and avoid the turbulence, it is enough time to flick on the seatbelt sign. Again, it may not be enough time for somebody to return to their seat, however, those seated without their seatbelt fastened can fasten it.

With the FAA saying 44 people were severely injured by turbulence in 2016, truly every little helps. It’s always worth keeping your seatbelt fastened when sat down just in case.

Is turbulence getting worse? Let us know in the comments.