Monday, 4 January 2016

21 People Injured by Turbulence Air Canada Flight

You have probably seen this in the news? 

From BBC Website:

'On 31st December, at least 21 passengers were injured on a flight from China to Canada, which was hit by severe turbulence. The Air Canada flight from Shanghai to Toronto had to make an early landing in Calgary, with 332 passengers and 19 crew on board.'

We have received a lot of emails from people with fear of flying about this flight...mostly from people that have not been on our course.  We have not seen any official reports about this yet, but we are going to break a habit of a lifetime and talk a bit about what might have happened....
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First of all, 'severe' turbulence is extremely rare. It is normally for a few seconds...or minutes. To you inside the aircraft, it might feel like a sudden jerk. Some people say it feels like falling thousands of feet....

This is not what actually happens. Picture this:

A commercial aircraft flying at 4-500 miles an hour. (A Boeing 747-400 can weigh up 450 tons about the same as TGV Atlantique) ...What on Earth could disrupt something weighing so much and flying so fast?  What could make it drop 'thousands of feet' as people often quote?!

The facts are that it does not 'drop' thousands of feet - that is not possible. It can change its altitude rapidly over a short distance which could equal hundreds of feet ...but over a distance - it still has forward motion. Imagine a large ship moving with a wave.... Over a large distance, it could go up and down quite a bit but the ship would be 'riding the wave.'  

A commercial aircraft can't just suddenly drop more than a few feet. It might feel a lot more than that. It would be uncomfortable. It is not dangerous to the aircraft itself - the aircraft frame can take much more than nature can throw at it. 

Imagine if you were in a car driving at 100 miles an hour, and you drove off a three foot pavement or sidewalk.. The car would 'thump' down.  The car might float for a millisecond before thumping down. You would feel slightly weightless for a moment.  If you didn't have a seatbelt on, you would probably bang your head on the ceiling of the car.

Could you be hurt during severe turbulence?

Yes, possibly.  If walking about or sitting down not wearing a seatbelt.  The aircraft only needs to reduce height by three feet quickly for you to rise out of your seat.

No, if sat down wearing a seatbelt.

Top Tips:
  • Keep your seatbelt on loosely and you will come to no harm - just in case of unexpected turbulence.
  • If the crew put seatbelt sign on, sit down and put it on.
  • Remember, the aircraft is not bothered by turbulence - it is just us humans with our soft bodies that are.
  • It is extremely rare to be in actual 'severe' turbulence.
  • Changes of height during turbulence are a lot less than you 'feel' as our senses are massively confused when flying.
  • Turbulence can be uncomfortable when it happens but, it is not dangerous. (There are a lot of people that have been through our course that tell us they actually enjoy turbulence now that they know it is not dangerous!)
Hope that helps a little?

Take care,
Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear

Future Courses

Premium courses £267: Birmingham February 28th; Gatwick March 6th; Manchester April to be confirmed...
Ground courses £150: Leeds January 10th; Heathrow February 7th.
Children's Course £367 (One adult and one child) : Gatwick March 6th
To book 

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Definitions from the internet:


Light Chop. Slight, rapid, and somewhat rhythmic bumpiness without appreciable changes in altitude or attitude. (Ed - all the time)

Light Turbulence. Slight, erratic changes in altitude and/or attitude. Occupants may feel a slight strain against seatbelts. Unsecured objects may be displaced slightly. Food service may be conducted and little to no difficulty is encountered in walking. (Ed - seatbelt signs might go on for passengers. Crew still working)

Moderate Chop. Rapid bumps or jolts without appreciable changes in aircraft altitude or attitude.

Moderate Turbulence. Changes in altitude and/or attitude occur but the aircraft remains in positive control at all times. It usually causes variations in indicated airspeed. Occupants feel definite strain against seatbelts. Unsecured objects are dislodged. Food service and walking are difficult. (Seatbelt signs definitely on and crew sat down)

Severe. Large, abrupt changes in altitude and/or attitude. Usually causes large variations in indicated airspeed. Aircraft may be momentarily out of control. Occupants are forced against seatbelts. Unsecured objects are tossed about.  (Very, very rare and short, sudden)

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