Continental Airplane Turbulence

Today’s Continental airplane turbulence incident injured 26 people and required an emergency landing in Miami during their flight from Rio de Janeiro to Houston.

ContinentalI want to point out that the Continental emergency landing was not because of the airplane. It was because of injuries related to turbulence. They could have easily been avoided.

Some people ignore the pilot’s advice to keep their seatbelts fastened. They’re thinking “What could happen? The flight is so smooth.” Or, they feel uncomfortable with the seatbelt tightened. Maybe they never wear their seatbelt while driving a car and so they aren’t used to the feeling.

We can’t make you keep your seatbelt on, but we strongly suggest that you do.


Today’s airplane turbulence incident is a perfect example.

I’ve flown to South America many times and I’m familiar with that area. There aren’t a lot of other people flying in that area and that means that there are fewer reports of turbulence.

Of course, if there is a storm, our weather radar will pick it up and we’ll be able to go around it.  We’ll slow down to soften the rough ride as well as maintain the structural integrity of the airplane. When we can’t go around it, we make an announcement to the passengers to expect some turbulence and give an extra reminder to put your seatbelts on.

Sometimes airplane turbulence is not expected.  We fly into what is called ‘clear air turbulence’.

What is clear air turbulence?

The air is clear. There’s no storm and so it doesn’t show up on our weather radar screen. The turbulence is unseen. The only way we know about it in advance is if pilots report it to air traffic control.

Pilots will report clear air turbulence when they fly into it so that others can avoid it. In areas where there are a lot of other people flying, this works really well. In areas where there is less traffic such as where the Continental jet was flying, there were probably no reports made.

This is a volatile time for weather in the Caribbean. They were probably flying in an area where the wind was going in one direction and then suddenly shifted to another direction. Turbulence is when the wind is changing directions and flows from high pressure toward the low pressure.

These injuries could have been avoided if they had been wearing their seatbelt.

Understanding the nuances of turbulence can be reassuring  and will help to reduce your fear of flying.  Always keep your seatbelt fastened. It’s not just for airline safety. It’s for you own safety as well.

You can learn more ways to overcome fear of flying in my program “Lose the Fear – and Fly!”

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