SQ424: What you need to know about turbulence

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Flight SQ424 from Singapore to Mumbai experienced sudden turbulence during descent on Saturday (Oct 18).

It is rare, but it does happen. Here are a few things you should know about bumpy flights.

1. Injuries do happen. But rarely. The Federal Aviation Administration reveals between 30 and 60 cases of turbulence-related injuries each year. This is out of the millions of flights that take place.

2. Most bouts of turbulence are nothing more than bumpy rides caused either by wind, thunderstorms, the jet stream, proximity to mountains or other factors.

3. Pilots can tell when it will happen. So when the seat belt light comes on, don’t ignore it.

4. There is thing called “clear air turbulence” and this is the type that could be dangerous. It occurs in cloudless skies with perfect visibility, so it cannot be detected on radar. This leaves little or no time for seat-belt warning.

5. Because of global warming, clear air turbulence is on the rise. The amount of extreme clear air turbulence affecting flights could more than double by the middle of the century due to global warming. So brace yourself for more bumpy flights.

6. Your plane will not crash because of turbulence. No matter how scary it is, the actual safety of the aircraft is rarely in question. Planes are engineered to take a remarkable amount of punishment. There is no natural force on the planet strong enough to snap the wings of a plane.

7. Pilots are trained to deal with turbulance. To prevent it, they study weather patterns and plan for the best route before each flight. Some good ones know how to calm nervous passengers.

8. Never underestimate the protection of a seatbelt, especially when clear air turbulence strikes.

9. Children and babies are most vulnerable. Ask how you can secure your child more safely into their seat during flight. Lap sitting children can fly out of your lap during severe turbulence.

10. Technology is being developed to help us avoid turbulence altogether. Airlines are currently testing new technology which can help airplanes avoid turbulence altogether, by using ultraviolet lasers to send pulses into the air ahead.

All in all, severe turbulence is extremely rare. In a flying career of over 10,000 hours, a pilot typically experiences severe turbulence for five minutes in total.

Very uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

 

 

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