Dangers of Turbulence
Turbulence during flight is something we ALL have experienced at one time or another; as a passenger or a working crewmember. And as most people know, there are many causes of turbulence due to the fact that our “friendly skies” consist of ever changing air pressures, temperature changes, precipitation, wind speeds/ directions, and other aircrafts!
The dangers mostly lie in the types of turbulence that can’t be predicted and really come out of nowhere…
Clear air turbulence
This type of turbulence occurs when the winds change direction and the air masses moving at different speeds meet. Usually there are no visual clues, i.e. clouds. Its also most common in areas of jet streams and over mountain ranges. Corporate jets, flying over 40,000 feet are less likely to experience this but climbing through altitude, we can still hit it. When clear air turbulence occurs, it literally feels like the plane just “drops”. So imagine a poor flight attendant walking around doing their service and “out of the clear blue sky” this happens…
Simply put, this type of turbulence is caused by one plane flying too close to another. ATC will generally specify the distance two planes need to take off, land, or fly near each other, but sometimes, they just get too close.. Picture the wake of a boat, and the effect it has on another one as it passes… In the take off and landing phases of flight, the vortex ( air flow generated by the wingtips during lift), are usually stronger, and can make wake turbulence more dangerous to another aircraft that may be be following too close behind.
Stormy and severe weather
In the event of a thunderstorm, snow, hail, or strong winds, pilots have restrictions to follow as to if, when ,and where to fly. They do their best to avoid certain cloud formations, altitudes, and any flying pattern that can be hazardous. However, not all situations can be avoided. All of the above conditions would cause some level of turbulence.
Severity Of turbulence
Turbulence can also vary is severity between- “mild”, “moderate”, or “severe”. Light bumps or mild turbulence are usually harmless. But moderate and severe levels can really do serious damage to passengers, crew, and even the aircraft. I have served full meal services in mild turbulence, but anything heavier, you can bet your “you know what”, I will be sitting down.
All too often, Flight attendants are walking around an aircraft at 45,000 feet and prioritizing their passenger’s comfort and needs over their own safety. When turbulence occurs out of now where, most of us at least TRY to pick up loose items- anything that can potentially go airborne! This is the time so many are injured …
I have been lucky enough, thus far, to have never experienced an injury from turbulence. I have bumped around a bit, but that’s pretty much it. Others have not been so lucky.
A flight Attendant recently wrote me with her own horrific story of a turbulent flight which resulted in permanent neck injury! Her story actually inspired me to write this blog.
With her permission, I will share it with you:
“I was working a flight between BWI – SAN and the weather was horrible we were delayed hours before takeoff. When we finally were cleared to get up and serve our passengers we hit a pocket of turbulence. I bounced up and got slammed in to the floor. It felt like someone dumped ice water down my neck and back. I just laid there for a few moments frozen. I remember the screams from the scared passengers as things were getting tossed around. I got up and struggled to keep working. I did my company irregularity report and ended up having to work the rest of my trip because the lack of coverage due to the fact we only had a 7 hour layover and no base in SAN. I saw the company doctor as soon as I got back. My severely injured neck went in diagnosed for months because they never got me an xray or MRI. I progressively got worse and started losing my balance I was falling down and ended up losing most of the feeling in my right arm and hand. I went for an emergency MRI and was sent to surgery within days. I had my cervical neck fused with a titanium plate and screws. It’s been a rough recovery and my range of motion is bad. I will forever have neck problems now. I’m slowly getting back into flying, but it’s not the same. 4 ounce of soda and a bag if pretzels is NOT worth breaking your neck. You’re number one. Use your judgment and sit down if it’s not safe. Learn from my experience!”
AS you can see from the pictures, Michelle was lucky to be alive.
My message to all of you is this:
No glass of wine, plate of oeuvres, or “bag of pretzels”, is worth your safety and life. If it’s too bumpy to keep a glass steadily on a tray, sit down! Wait for it to pass, and resume your service.
If any one else would like to share their stories on this topic, please feel free to post a response!!
Cobblestones and Heels