The 14 Most Shocking Turbulence Incidents in Aviation History:
A Comprehensive Recap
In aviation history, there have been several shocking turbulence incidents that have left a lasting impact on the industry. Turbulence is a common occurrence during flights, and while most incidents are minor, some have been severe enough to cause injuries to passengers and crew.
One of the most notable turbulence incidents occurred in 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232 experienced an engine failure and crashed in Iowa, killing 111 people. While the cause of the crash was not solely due to turbulence, the severe weather conditions played a significant role in the accident. This incident led to improvements in crew training and aircraft design to prevent similar accidents in the future.
Another shocking turbulence incident occurred in 2019 when a Delta Airlines flight from Orange County to Seattle encountered severe turbulence, causing several passengers and crew members to sustain serious injuries. The incident highlighted the importance of wearing seat belts during flights, even when the seat belt sign is turned off.
Turbulence is a common phenomenon in aviation, and it is caused by disturbances in the atmosphere. It can be defined as the irregular movement of air that can cause an aircraft to experience sudden and unexpected changes in altitude, speed, and direction. Turbulence can be caused by a variety of factors, including jet streams, clear-air turbulence, storms, wind shear, and atmospheric instability.
Jet streams are fast-moving air currents that flow in the upper atmosphere. They can be a major cause of turbulence, especially during the winter months. Clear-air turbulence, on the other hand, is caused by variations in wind speed and direction that occur without any visible signs of clouds or other weather phenomena.
Climate change is also having an impact on turbulence. As the atmosphere warms, it becomes more unstable, which can lead to more turbulence. Additionally, changes in wind patterns and the intensity of storms can also contribute to increased turbulence.
Altitude can also play a role in turbulence. Generally, the higher the altitude, the more likely an aircraft is to encounter turbulence. This is because the atmosphere is less stable at higher altitudes, and there is less air to provide lift and stability to the aircraft.
In addition to altitude, heat can also be a factor in turbulence. When the sun heats the ground, it causes warm air to rise, which can create pockets of turbulence. Wind shear, which is a sudden change in wind direction or speed, can also cause turbulence.
Understanding the science behind turbulence is important for pilots and air traffic controllers. By monitoring weather patterns and the atmosphere, they can better predict and avoid areas of turbulence, helping to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers and crew.
Notable Turbulence Incidents
Over the years, there have been several turbulence incidents that have caused severe injuries and even fatalities. Here are some of the most notable turbulence incidents in aviation history:
- American Airlines Flight 11: On June 12, 1972, this flight encountered severe turbulence while flying over Colorado. The turbulence caused the aircraft to drop 200 feet, injuring 21 passengers and 2 crew members.
- United Airlines Flight 175: On July 26, 1975, this flight experienced severe turbulence over Wyoming, causing the aircraft to drop 200 feet. The turbulence injured 11 passengers and 2 crew members.
- Pan Am Flight 1736 and KLM Flight 4805: On March 27, 1977, these two flights collided on the runway at Tenerife Airport in the Canary Islands. The collision caused the deaths of 583 people, making it the deadliest aviation accident in history.
- Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907: On November 12, 1996, these two flights collided in mid-air over India, killing all 349 people on board.
- Turkish Airlines Flight 981: On March 3, 1974, this flight crashed in France due to a faulty cargo door. The accident resulted in the deaths of all 346 passengers and crew members on board.
- Air India Flight 182: On June 23, 1985, this flight was bombed by terrorists while flying over the Atlantic Ocean. The bombing caused the deaths of all 329 people on board.
- Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: On July 17, 2014, this flight was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board.
- Iran Air Flight 655: On July 3, 1988, this flight was shot down by the US Navy while flying over the Persian Gulf. The incident resulted in the deaths of all 290 passengers and crew members on board.
- American Airlines Flight 191: On May 25, 1979, this flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Chicago O’Hare International Airport due to engine failure. The accident resulted in the deaths of all 271 passengers and crew members on board, as well as two people on the ground.
- Pan Am Flight 103: On December 21, 1988, this flight was bombed by terrorists while flying over Scotland. The bombing caused the deaths of all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board, as well as 11 people on the ground.
- Korean Air Lines Flight 007: On September 1, 1983, this flight was shot down by the Soviet Union while flying over the Sea of Japan. The incident resulted in the deaths of all 269 passengers and crew members on board.
- American Airlines Flight 587: On November 12, 2001, this flight crashed in Queens, New York, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The accident resulted in the deaths of all 260 passengers and crew members on board, as well as 5 people on the ground.
- China Airlines Flight 140: On April 26, 1994, this flight crashed in Nagoya, Japan, due to pilot error. The accident resulted in the deaths of 264 passengers and crew members on board.
- Nigeria Airways Flight 2120: On July 11, 1991, this flight crashed shortly after takeoff from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, due to tire failure. The accident resulted in the deaths of all 261 passengers and crew members on board.
These incidents serve as a reminder of the importance of safety in aviation and the need for continued efforts to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.
Impact on Passengers and Crew
Seat belts are the most effective way to protect passengers and crew during turbulence. However, some passengers may ignore the seat belt sign or store their belongings in overhead bins, which can become dangerous projectiles during turbulence.
In some of the most severe turbulence incidents, passengers and crew have sustained serious injuries. For example, in 2019, 10 passengers and crew members were injured on a United Airlines flight due to severe turbulence. In 2016, 21 passengers and crew members were injured on an Etihad Airways flight during turbulence.
Despite the potential risks, turbulence-related injuries are relatively rare. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were only 44 turbulence-related injuries to passengers and crew in 2019, out of the millions of passengers who flew that year.
Overall, turbulence can be a scary and uncomfortable experience for passengers and crew. However, by following safety procedures and staying alert during flights, the risk of turbulence-related injuries can be minimized.
Safety Measures and Recommendations
In light of the shocking turbulence incidents in aviation history, safety measures and recommendations have been put in place to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have been at the forefront of implementing these measures.
One of the most critical safety measures is ensuring that passengers wear seat belts at all times. The FAA’s Code of Federal Regulations requires that passengers fasten their seat belts during takeoff, landing, and when the seat belt sign is illuminated. Additionally, the FAA recommends that passengers keep their seat belts fastened even when the sign is off, in case of unexpected turbulence.
The NTSB has also made safety recommendations to airlines to enhance safety measures. One recommendation is for airlines to improve their weather forecasting capabilities and provide pilots with real-time weather updates during flights to avoid turbulence. Another recommendation is for airlines to provide additional training to pilots on how to handle turbulence and other weather-related incidents.
Furthermore, the FAA has implemented regulations requiring aircraft manufacturers to design and test aircraft to withstand turbulence. The FAA also requires that airlines conduct regular inspections and maintenance of their aircraft to ensure that they are in good condition and safe to fly.
In conclusion, safety measures and recommendations have been put in place to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members during flights. Passengers can contribute to their safety by wearing seat belts at all times, while airlines and regulatory bodies continue to work towards improving safety measures and practices.
The Role of Technology in Mitigating Turbulence
Technology has played a crucial role in mitigating turbulence in aviation history. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented several measures to ensure the safety of commercial aircraft and business jets during turbulent weather conditions. One such measure is the use of advanced weather radar systems.
Commercial aircraft such as Boeing and Airbus A330 are equipped with weather radar systems that can detect turbulence up to 60 miles away. The radar system can also detect other weather conditions such as thunderstorms, hail, and lightning. This information is then relayed to air traffic controllers who can advise pilots on the best course of action.
Another technology that has helped mitigate turbulence is the use of sophisticated computer models. These models can predict turbulence and other weather conditions with a high degree of accuracy. This information is then relayed to pilots who can adjust their flight path accordingly.
In addition to these technologies, the FAA has also implemented regulations that require pilots to report any turbulence encountered during a flight. This information is then used to update weather models and improve their accuracy.