This weekend, a United Airlines flight from the US to Dublin, Ireland experienced 'severe turbulence,' resulting in one passenger taken to the hospital and seven others with minor injuries. How can you stay safe and prevent injury from turbulence?
First, turbulence in itself is rarely dangerous, if you are seated with your seat belt fastened. The airliner will not turn upside down or get thrown into a tailspin. Strong wind gusts and pockets of air will not blow the plane from the sky or cause a crash.
So, what can you expect? First, pay attention to cabin crew instruction by returning to your seat and buckling up once advised. When napping, remain buckled up. If the flight deck requests the flight attendants to take their seats, get ready for larger bumps and jostling. This is a good time to finish any drinks and clear your tray table to avoid any spills.
When is turbulence more likely? Storms and clouds often create turbulence, as does changes in air temperature while flying over mountains or transitioning from land and sea. It is also more common while changing altitude during take-off and landing. The website Turbulence Forecast offers maps of the US as well as internationally. TF updates every few hours and even includes pilot reports of turbulence, plus they offer an app for iPhone & iPad.
If your plane has an exterior camera on the nose or tail, you can view the approaching cloud cover and watch the plane respond to these clouds. Pilots try to steer clear of turbulence, but it is sometimes unavoidable. When you encounter turbulence, sit calm and know the crew is doing their best to get through it.