Picture the pilot of your flight making a brief announcement informing you that it may “get a little bumpy up ahead” and stated that you may want to check that your seatbelt is secure.
The airplane begins leaping around shortly after the announcement and you could swear that it’s more than just a “little bumpy.” Will the plane be able to handle this turbulence? Will the pilot be capable of dealing with it and maybe even deliver you from it? More notably, will your lunch stay down until it gets calmer?
The bad news is that nearly all flights covering any substantial space have at least a brief moment when it’s not precisely what one would describe as a smooth flight. The good news is that rough air, while at times is quite unsettling, is fleeting and is hardly ever a huge deal in terms of safety in flight.
Here are five facts for you to know concerning flight turbulence:
1. The airplane isn’t going to fall from the sky. Upper air turbulence is hardly ever the cause of deadly aircraft crashes or accidents. If it gets really bumpy while you are in flight you can treat it more as a nuisance than a potentially deadly occurrence.
Aircraft have, built in, big safety margins and are structurally much stronger than one would expect. The key threat to those in the airplane is that they could get thrown about like a ragdoll if they didn’t have their seatbelts secured.
2. There are no “air pockets.” Several stories told by passengers concerning bumpy air begin with: “we hit this huge air pocket!” I have been professionally piloting for forty years now and have yet to come across this alleged “pocket”. You cannot have a pocket of void in the midst of the atmosphere. Does the airplane really go into a place in the sky where it drops “thousands of feet” (another element of the passenger’s story) before finding actual air and hitting the bottom? Absolutely not… bumpy air is simply bumpy; it doesn’t possess supernatural properties.
3. Pilots are always attempting to find a smooth ride for you. Trust me; though the majority of pilots are accustomed to flying in bumpy air, hardly any of us plough though it before attempting to find an easier ride. Every now and then an elevation change will deliver you from the bumpy air. Occasionally picking an alternate route helps. Nearly all pilots are soliciting the air traffic controller if they have additional ride reports in that region. The controllers are typically accommodating and will respond with something along the lines of: “Roger. A United 767 twenty miles in front of you at a similar elevation is reporting just light chop.”
Flight crews are usually aware of forecast turbulence all along their path but they, even with today’s modern technology, are frequently incorrect. The most accurate image that a pilot can obtain of what the flight is going to be up ahead is to merely ask the pilot who just traveled through that region.
4. Clear Air Turbulence, CAT, is hardly ever a surprise but when it is, the surprise is startling. The majority of weather updates for high elevation flights can provide flight crews with a decent idea of where they may run into bumpy travel but they can in no way inform them of precisely where they will hit it.
Upper air turbulence apart from the clouds is typically called “clear air turbulence” and it could be slightly unsettling due to the fact that you are traveling in the clear, smooth air then it abruptly becomes incredibly bumpy. What’s happening?
Weather at these higher elevations is fairly different from the weather that arises in the Troposphere, the level nearest to the earth where the majority of weather takes place. For starters, the winds are more vigorous. It’s not atypical for winds to surpass one hundred and fifty MPH at elevation.
The “jet” is a dynamic river of air at the advanced levels. It’s something that could be an advantage if you experience a tailwind, but bumps can also be caused from it if the flight is going close to the border of it.
5. Wake Turbulence is Rarely a Trouble. The air from the wings at the back of all aircraft creates small tornadoes or “wingtip vortices.” Unless you are behind an airplane much heavier than your own, these aren’t problematic. The vortices follow after the airplane and go under its flight path. If the plane comes across this wake by accident it will turn over in the same way as the vortices and this roll.
The good news concerning wake turbulence is that flight crews are aware of it, are trained on dealing with it, and air traffic control rules and procedures exist to prevent it from becoming an issue.
Air Traffic Control provides extensive space between “heavies” and additional airplanes. Pilots know to constantly advance on an airport slightly higher than the heavier airplanes before them and to land on the runway slightly beyond where the heavy landed. Wake turbulence is usually only problematic in the traffic pattern. While cruising, a wake meeting will present you with only a brief bump at the worst.
Turbulence is a nuisance and constantly offers a flight more drama than hazard. Keep your seatbelt tightly secured and believe me when I say that the flight crew desires to get smooth air just as much as you do.