Is Airplane Turbulence Dangerous?

If you’ve ever been in an airplane before, then something you’re likely familiar with is turbulence. Some flyers dread it, others hardly notice it. 

Unless you’re a frequent flyer, then turbulence can certainly be scary and confusing. You have no control when you’re thousands of miles in the air, so being suddenly shaken can be quite alarming.

When it comes to turbulence, the important question is whether it’s dangerous. 58 turbulence injuries occur every year, which may give you cause for concern. However, this is usually a cause of not wearing a seatbelt during periods when the light indicating to wear it is illuminated.

Beyond minor injuries, what you want to know is if turbulence can cause a plane to crash. Understanding this can help you feel safer during flight. 

We’ll explain if turbulence is anything you need to worry about below.

Pilots Are Well-Equipped for Turbulence

First, you should know that pilots are well-equipped to handle turbulence. During aviation school, pilots learn to master turbulence. Airplane turbulence is entirely natural and unavoidable, but it isn’t anything to stress about. 

The word turbulence is just a fancier term for disruption in airflow. We mentioned that only 58 people are injured annually as a result of turbulence. When you put that into perspective, that’s 58 people out of over eight million airplane passengers per year. 

Not only do pilots have air traffic controllers assisting them through their headsets, but they also have radars in the cockpit that inform them of nearby weather that might affect turbulence. 

Pilots will know when air disruptions will hit and have the tools they need to carry their passengers through waves of turbulence. 

In other words, turbulence-related injuries are one of the rarest ways to get hurt because pilots are trained to handle bouts of turbulence with grace.

Modern Planes Are Highly Durable

Another reassuring fact is that modern planes are highly durable

Turbulence can feel as though the airplane itself is being controlled by the air, but this isn’t the case. The pilot has control over the aircraft even though the turbulence rocks the plane in a side-to-side motion. 

It’s better to work with the turbulence rather than fight it, so there’s a method to the madness. Trust your pilot and trust the aircraft, too!

Because turbulence is so natural, aircrafts are intentionally designed to withstand it. Just as vehicles are created to handle weather that you encounter on the road, airplanes are crafted to survive turbulence. 

This means that there’s never a real risk of turbulence causing a plane to crash. Though the turbulence can feel overpowering when you’re in the moment, it’s certainly not strong enough to cause airplanes to spiral out of the sky. It won’t break the aircraft either.

Always Wear Your Seatbelt

To help avoid an injury from turbulence, you should make a point to always wear your seatbelt. The only time you should be unbuckled when the plane is in the sky is if you are making your way to the restroom. 

The pilot will announce if and when it’s safe to get out of your seat, so wait for their signal before heading to the bathroom. Bathroom breaks aside, you should always have your seatbelt buckled across your lap. 

Something to remember is that pilots know they are flying into an area with higher rates of turbulence. They mentally prepare the passengers in the cabin by instructing them to buckle their seats, so take their advice to heart. 

Sometimes, this is not the case when clear air turbulence is present. This is turbulence that is virtually impossible to detect, which likely will catch your pilot off guard. Even in this situation, you don’t need to be alarmed.

Seatbelts work wonders when turbulence is present and they are installed in every seat on the plane for a reason. Just like you should never be in a moving car without a seatbelt on, you shouldn’t be unbuckled while onboard an airplane either. 

Don’t risk a few minutes of leisure because you never know when clear air turbulence might strike.

Avoid the Back Rows

If you’re particularly concerned about turbulence, then you’ll want to avoid sitting in the back rows of the plane. 

Should you have the option of choosing your seats and you fear turbulence, then make it a point to sit close to the front of the aircraft. The nose of an airplane isn’t affected much by turbulence, meaning that you’ll feel very little when riding up there. 

Picking a seat near the wings of the plane is your next best option. The wings of a plane help provide stability, which means that less movement will occur in the middle of the plane. 

Avoid sitting at the back of the plane because the tail end of an aircraft carrier will feel the most amount of turbulence. It also tends to be the loudest because it is closer to the engine.

Sitting closer to the cockpit might give you peace of mind because you’re in closer proximity to the pilot. This can be another comforting thought, knowing that you’re right next to the person who can safely steer you out of turbulence. 

Closing Thoughts

Even though airplane turbulence isn’t dangerous, it can still be scary. At the mercy of nature and the skill of your pilots, being tossed around by turbulence will make a flight incredibly uncomfortable. 

A few things you should know about turbulence include that pilots are well-trained to handle turbulence and modern planes are highly durable. Always wear your seatbelt and avoid sitting toward the back of the plane! 

Turbulence is nothing to fear, but your feelings are certainly rational. Just remember to breathe and keep in mind that you are in no real danger! 

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