A flight attendant aboard American Eagle flight number AA-3880 from El Paso, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois, was seriously injured during the aircraft’s descent into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on June 9.
The aircraft, an Envoy Air Embraer ERJ-175 registration number N226NN was operating the three hours and ten-minute flight on behalf of American Airlines. As the plane descended through 16,000 feet, it encountered severe turbulence caused by thunderstorm cells typical during midwestern summers. The aircraft continued to Chicago landing safely on O’Hares runway 27L around 15 minutes later.
While we do not know how badly injured, the flight attendant was the FAA reported that the person involved had received severe injuries and rated it as an accident.
What causes thermal turbulence?
While several factors cause turbulence, I think we can safely assume that given the time of day flight AA-3880 was approaching Chicago, thermal turbulence caused the flight attendants injury. Looking at Flightradar24.com’s tracking of the trip on July 9, we can see that it would have occurred at around quarter to five in the afternoon.
According to weather reports, a series of strong thunderstorms passed through Iowa, Kentucky, southern Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and Wisconsin on July 9. The powerful storms downed many trees and left 30,000 customers in the Chicago area without power. Historically, July is the hottest month in Chicago, and at the time of the incident, the temperature was 34°C (93.2°F).
When seated always buckle your belt
As the ground heats up during the day, it causes the air to rise, forming convective thermals. This rising hot air on its own is no problem until it encounters winds higher in the atmosphere. Strong winds like those along a storm front can cause severe turbulence that can toss a plane around. During these events, you want to be safe in your seat and buckled up.
Who is Envoy Air?
Envoy Air is the largest regional carrier for American Airlines and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Airlines group. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Envoy Air is a feeder airline for American Airlines operating under the American Eagle brand.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Envoy Air operated over 1,000 flights a day to destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Envoy Air is a member of the oneworld airline alliance and has, according to the aviation website Planespooters.net a fleet of 198 aircraft comprised of the following:
- 58 Embraer ERJ-135s
- 58 Embraer ERJ-145s
- 82 Embraer ERJ-175s
Envoy Air operates flights from the following bases:
- Dallas / Fort Worth International (DFW)
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
- Los Angeles International (LAX)
- Miami International (MIA)
- New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)
American Airlines has provided Simple Flying with the following information:
“Due to turbulence, two Envoy Air flight attendants sustained non-life-threatening injuries during a recent flight from El Paso, Texas, to Chicago O’Hare.”
Both employees are expected to make a full recovery.
Have you ever been on a flight where the turbulence was so bad that someone was injured? If so, please tell us all about it in the comments.