What is turbulence, the 'enemy' of aircraft during air travel? Understand each and every thing.

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

New Delhi : A Singapore Airlines plane flying from London to Singapore faced severe turbulence during the flight. During this, an air passenger died. At the same time, more than 30 passengers were injured. The plane was hurriedly diverted to Bangkok. Here the plane made an emergency landing. Singapore Airlines said in a statement that flight SQ321, flying from London (Heathrow) to Singapore on 20 May 2024, faced severe turbulence on the way. Now the question is what is this turbulence due to which the passenger lost his life.

What is disturbance?

Turbulence is a very popular word in the aviation sector. Turbulence refers to instability caused by changes in air flow. This is an incident that every airline wants to avoid. Turbulence is a sudden change in air flow and pressure. It can be understood as an obstruction to the flow of air that helps an aircraft fly. This causes a shock to the plane. In such a situation the aircraft keeps moving in irregular vertical motion. Due to this the plane starts moving up and down rapidly. In this way the plane deviates from its regular route. Turbulence causes shocks ranging from short to long periods of time. The possibility of a serious accident also arises. In other words turbulence is the irregular movement of air that causes irregular changes in the altitude or angle of the aircraft

During flight, only 3% of the atmosphere has mild turbulence, about 1% has moderate turbulence. Only a few tenths of a percent experience serious turbulence at any time.

Paul Williams, Professor, Atmospheric Sciences

Turbulence due to blockage of air flow

Turbulence can be understood from air flow or flow of air. Any aircraft requires a steady flow of air over and under its wing to fly stably. Sometimes due to weather or other reasons there is irregularity in the flow of air. Due to this, air pockets are formed at particular places. These air pockets cause turbulence. Climate change is causing greater instability in the jet stream and increasing wind speeds. Turbulence is divided into mild, moderate and severe categories depending on the stability of the wind.

  • mild disturbance : In this the plane moves up and down by 1 meter. Many times air passengers do not even know about it.
  • moderate disturbance : In this the ships move up and down by 3 to 6 meters. In this, the drink kept in hand may fall during the journey.
  • serious disturbance : In this the ships go up and down up to 30 meters. If seat belts are not worn, passengers may fall from their seats.

Can turbulence cause a plane to crash?

The question arises whether turbulence can cause a plane to crash? The answer is that yes, it can happen but its probability is very less. In modern times, technology has become so advanced that the chances of an aircraft crashing due to turbulence are greatly reduced. However, there have also been incidents of plane crashes due to turbulence in the 60s. From 2009 to 2021, turbulence caused serious injuries to 30 passengers and 116 crew members out of the millions of people who fly each year, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. During turbulence, injuries can occur due to seat belts not being worn, luggage falling over heads, people slipping, or collisions with people on the side of the cabin or in dining carts.

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