Turbulence is one of the things that frightens the most passengers on board of an aircraft. People mostly thing that the wings of an aircraft will fall off because of this or it might end up into something worse but these stories are not true. In this blog, I’ll try to explain in an easy way what turbulence is and what it does with an aircraft.
To start I’ll explain how turbulence comes up. Turbulence is mostly caused by the difference in pressure or temperatures in the air. You might have felt something like this in the ocean once as well. The easiest way to explain turbulence is if you see an aquarium with bubbles to put oxygen in the water. These bubbles rise up. Now imagine that this is the world and these bubbles are caused by different temperatures over the ground. The warm air rises up and we are flying there. Now such a bubble can hit us when it rises up and causes some discomfort. Sometimes a bigger bubble can hit and these are felt a bit more. In airlines, the advice would be to always have your seatbelt fastened even if you are on a long 12-hour cruise flight towards some beautiful island. I try to make it as easy as possible so I really hope this helps.
In aviation, turbulence is categorized in 3 levels. Light, medium and severe. Light turbulence you can feel almost always on every flight and can shake the aircraft just a little. I like this kind of turbulence when I fly as a passenger because it puts me easily to sleep. Medium shakes the aircraft a bit more, you feel it enough and the seatbelt signs will turn on. It might spill a bit of your drink and might wake up this guy next to you who just fell asleep during the light turbulence. Last but surely not least is Severe turbulence. This is the worst kind and as a pilot, you always try to avoid areas like this but it is not always possible. In this case, you should be strapped in with the seatbelt. You could be lifted out of your seat and reading a newspaper might be impossible. You will shake around and it will feel like something is pushing the aircraft from all sides. Service from flight attendants are stopped and they should be in their seat as well. They are not allowed to stand up just like you.
What is the biggest fear? That you just fall out of the air or the wings break off. In the picture here on the right, you see how far a wing can bend. Wings are made to move and take a lot of pressure. In the picture, you see how they test the wings of a Boeing 787. This procedure is done with every aircraft to see how much pressure there is needed to snap them right off. Smart people make calculations how much you might have in a flight and multiply this with a legal amount. (I’m not sure what these numbers are if someone knows please tell us below) The other one is falling out of the air. I might sound scary but with severe turbulence, you could fall down about 100 ft / 30 meters. Or climb with the same rate.
My advice if you are scared to fly because of turbulence are:
- Take a seat above the wing because the movements are the least there.
- Don’t take a window seat but an aisle seat so you don’t see the wings move.
- Always keep your seatbelt fastened even if there is no turbulence.
- Don’t take sleeping pills and alcohol to numb the fear because you’ll not have full control.
- Think about a positive thing (I know it is a cliche). The pilot also wants to go home after the flight.
- If you have a fear. Tell the flight attendant when you walk in. They keep an extra eye on you and can help you if you are afraid. They do this job every day.
- See it as a free massage from mother nature.
In the video below you can see more about turbulence.
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