While flying from Pristina, Kosovo to Basel/Mulhouse, Switzerland/France on Sunday the 16th of June, 2019, an ALK Airlines Boeing 737-300 encountered severe turbulence over Italy. The resulting bumpy ride injured 10 of the passengers.
The flight from the Kosovo capital Pristina was 30 minutes away from landing, passing over South Tyrol, when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence. According to The Aviation Herald, it was attempting to avoid a thunderstorm
On landing in Basel, 10 of the 121 passengers on board were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Video of the incident
Passengers reported that one of the jolts was so severe that the seats were being ripped from their anchoring points. Following a two-and-a-half hour turnaround the aircraft, flight VBB-7206, made the return journey to Pristina.
As you can see in the video recorded by passenger Mirjeta Basha, this was not your ordinary patch of bumpy air.
Some things you need to know about turbulence
Even seasoned flyers can come unglued when an aircraft experiences severe turbulence. This is especially so when the plane is thrown about in such a violent way as was seen in the video.
There is no mystery when it comes to turbulence, as every pilot understands how it is created and how to avoid it if possible. The unstable air is usually created by weather fronts and thunderstorms, but is particularly prevalent in mountainous areas. There is also what is known as clear-air turbulence which occurs out of the blue with no visible clues.
When asked by USA Today how he would describe turbulence, former US Airways pilot and “Hero of the Hudson” Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, said,
“It helps to visualize flight as a river flowing rapidly over rocks, where water is forced upward and then down, with swirls and eddies,”
Many passengers are under the misconception that pilots can see turbulence up ahead on some device in the cockpit, but that is just not true.
“We generally don’t get more than a general warning,” Sullenberger says. He says that generally comes from another aircraft flying at the same altitude that has already flown through it.
When pre-warned that turbulence is ahead, the pilot can change altitude to avoid the unstable air. While this way of notifying other pilots of turbulence works well on busy transatlantic routes, aircraft flying in remote parts of the world will not have the same information available.
Today’s modern aircraft are built to withstand the worst possible turbulence you could imagine, and will fly through it without a worry in the world. Most passenger injuries during turbulence occur when someone does not have their seatbelt fastened, or gets hit by a falling object.
With the possibility of turbulence occurring without warning, Sullenberger recommends you keep your seatbelt on for the entire flight.
“Keeping your seat belt fastened is cheap insurance. I recommend that it stays fastened during the entire flight. Put it on and keep it fairly taut. A few minutes after I put mine on, I don’t even feel it.”
Who are ALK Airlines?
ALK Airlines is a charter airline based in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. It currently operates two Boeing 737-300 and two McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft.