Do Propeller Planes Have More Turbulence?

Recently I had the opportunity the fly on the Canadian airline Porter Airways. Porter is famous for its fleet of 29 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 planes, which is a small light aircraft with twin propellers, that can carry 78 passengers each.

You can read a review here.

During the flight over the Great Lakes, we experienced quite a lot of turbulence off the body of water. Upon asking the cabin crew if this is normal they said generally yes, the wind has much more of an impact on such a small plane. This, of course, got me wondering that if turboprops on average experience more turbulence than a regular flight.

What is turbulence?

It’s important to understand the science behind turbulence before we look at why propeller planes may experience more than jet aircraft.

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 metres 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.

Do propeller planes have more turbulence?

There are two major reasons why jet aircraft have less turbulence than to turboprop aircraft:

  • Jet aircraft are much heavier than turboprop Aircraft and as we know from Newton’s laws of dynamics, a heavy object requires more energy to move, thus it will require a far more turbulence to shake a jet aircraft than a turboprop plane. An Airbus A380 Will always experience less turbulence, than a small propeller craft.
  • The second reason is that jet aircraft generally fly at a much higher altitude then turboprop planes, the wind in the higher altitudes is much more consistent and less full of disturbances. As a rule, the higher that you go up, there are fewer air particles that are able to carry energy and impact flight.

On average, a turboprop aircraft is always going to experience more turbulence than jet aircraft, but all planes are going to encounter the push of wind on their fuselage.

If you are worried about flying, or if turbulence is a big issue for you, we highly recommend that you read the article on turbulence from a professional flight attendant and why it is nothing to worry about at all.