Turbulence causes injuries to passengers of aircraft

Monday 09th Jan 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Adrian Pingstone

Most of us have experienced some extreme weather at some point: gale force winds, thunderstorms or even the odd blizzard or two. But we experience this at ground level with our feet firmly on the terra firma. How about coming face to face with extreme conditions when cruising at 30,000ft on a flight to somewhere warm and sunny? Well that's what happened to 450 passengers on a Qantas A380 en route between London and Singapore on Saturday morning.

The Airbus superjumbo was three hours from Singapore when it encountered a storm over Indian airspace and the aircraft was rocked by "severe turbulence", a Qantas spokeswoman said. "Seven passengers were impacted, four of them were taken to hospital on arrival in Singapore" she added.

We've probably all been on a plane when it hits some minor turbulence and the seat belt signs go on as you grip tightly to chair arms wondering if your time is up. Severe turbulence is something quite different. Turbulence is classified from Category 0 (None) to Category 6 (Extreme) with severe turbulence being Category 5. When a plane encounters turbulence the pilot will endeavour to avoid it because it can be quite uncomfortable for everyone inside the aircraft and it may last from anything between 5 minutes to as long an hour. If the track to your destination is smack inside the area of turbulence, then you may be in for a long and rough ride.

For this particular Qantas flight the severe turbulence came with little warning just as the seat belt sign went on and people were asked to return to their seats. One passenger was thrown two feet in the air and another broke her nose. Most of the people injured had been out of their seats when the turbulence hit. Four were treated in hospital while another three were treated at a medical centre in Singapore but all have since been discharged.

The aircraft was cleared to continue its flight on to Sydney after being assessed by engineers. Just imagine how those passengers who re-boarded the flight must have felt after their experiences en route to Singapore. Thankfully the flight arrived safely in Sydney on Sunday.