Just when we publish an article about the end of turbulence on flights, an American Airlines flight is urgently diverted due to heavy turbulence with two injuries.
American Eagle Flight 5781, from San Luis Potosi, Mexico to Dallas/Fort Worth, USA, was flying over Texas when they hit a rough patch of air. The Bombardier CRJ-900 was carrying 75 passengers back up north.
How rough? Enough to throw a passenger and a flight attendant to the ground and sustain minor injuries. The plane was diverted to land in Austin, with passengers being cleared at customs.
“During the diversion to Austin, the flight encountered turbulence. The Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft landed safely at 5:39 p.m. CT, and taxied to the gate.” – American statement
The two people injured were released from the hospital. The rest of the passengers were put up in a hotel and flown home in the morning (Although Dallas and Austin are so close they could have driven in a few hours).
What causes turbulence?
Turbulence is caused by a variety of different reasons, from flying over mountain ranges (where the wind wraps around the peaks), to heat radiation from the ground, from ripples from a distant storm. It’s very commonly associated with higher pressure systems, such as a tropical storm or thunder and lightning storm.
Turbulence is less severe as you think, feeling a drop of one or two meters can seem extreme, but this is average for normal flying and nothing to worry about. The pilots on the flight deck can’t see the turbulence (unless they use a Lidar System) but they will predict where it will be just from geographical features on the ground, or from warnings from other pilots. Typically ground control will give advice to the pilots to avoid storms.
How can airlines prevent turbulence?
As we mentioned above, there are a variety of ways that an airline can prevent turbulence on their flights.
- Use an onboard Lidar System to detect the bad areas and avoid them. Relatively new, this technology can detect where actual turbulence is and allow pilots to avoid them. Boeing is working on integrating this technology into all their new planes.
- Get reports from ground control or other pilots about storms or bad currents.
- Avoiding areas known for bad turbulence, such as mountain ranges and other geological features.
- In the case of Delta, using a team of meteorologists to study the weather and build a ‘map’ of the where turbulence is in real time. Thus pilots will know for sure where there might or might not be rough air.
Bottom line, we at Simple Flying want to remind frequent flyers that turbulence is rare, heavy turbulence is even rarer and the fact someone got hurt is so rare that we write an article about it. Air travel is still by far the best way to travel and increasingly we will see turbulence become a thing of the past.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.