If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve probably experienced some turbulence and felt pretty anxious about it. Turbulence is the number one fear of nervous flyers. It spills drinks, jostles the luggage, and rattles the nerves. But will it crash the plane? No. You can take a breath of relief knowing the strongest gust of wind or air pocket is not going to cause the plan to flip upside-down or be thrown into a tailspin.
Pilots understand how scary turbulence can be for their passengers. Passengers fear the wings falling off when flying through a patch of turbulence, whereas pilots aren’t the least bit concerned about that. Pilots are worrying about the comfort of their passengers because they know planes can withstand an extreme amount of stress; they are built for it. The number of airplane crashes caused directly by turbulence is less than five.
Turbulence can be avoided by the communication of other pilots. If you get the sense of your plane descending or climbing mid-flight, there’s a good chance that fellow pilots ahead have reported to your pilot of revised routing to get your flight out of that turbulence area.
Knowing how to read and respond to weather charts, radars, and the real-time reports that come from other pilots are all part of a delicate science and art for pilots to avoid turbulence. There are also large meteorology departments on the ground that will send periodic updates to keep pilots informed of what lies ahead.
Cumulus clouds, the ones often in conjunction with thunderstorms, are avoided when possible due to being known for causing turbulence. It’s also known that flying over mountain ranges will have the potential of larger air pockets. While we have all of this technology and knowledge about the weather, it’s important that we still remember weather can be unpredictable and ever-changing.
On occasion, turbulence has been known to cause damage to passengers. Roughly fifty people each year, worldwide, are injured seriously enough to seek medical attention. Of those fifty people, out of roughly two billion who fly each year, most of them receive their injury because they have not listened to the pilot’s instruction to remain in their seats and stay buckled in.
While yes, turbulence may seem mighty and scary, it’s not something that passengers should fear. An airplane has been through dozens and dozens of tests to make sure it’s able to withstand all that mother nature has to throw at it. And your pilot has been trained for it as well.