Just about everyone who has ever flown in a passenger aircraft has experienced turbulence at one time or another. Colloquially referred to as “air pockets” these unexpected bumps and jumps while flying do surprise some people.
Turbulence is caused by a change in air pressure and velocity from one area to another. When flying, you mainly experience it when passing through clouds. The movement usually feels very much like going over a small bump in a car or bus.
Some Notes On Turbulence
There have been incidents in the past where aircraft have suddenly hit turbulent air during the cruise and dropped suddenly. This causes passengers who are unrestrained to raise out of their seats and sustain potential injury.
While extremely rare, this is why the crew announcement asks people to keep their seat belts loosely fastened even when the seat belt sign is off. Turbulence could strike unexpectedly anytime.
All aircraft themselves create turbulence as you can see in the image above. A rotating vortex pair is created from the tip of each wing and can result in an unexpected turning motion in an aircraft following behind.
This is one reason why you don’t see flights landing very close behind one another. Separation is maintained to give these vortexes the chance to dissipate. Nowadays there is virtually no chance of this affecting your flight.
BA492 at Gibraltar
In the news today are various videos showing a British Airways flight going around at Gibraltar. The rock of Gibraltar and location of the runway means there is a sometimes mountain wave effect making landings there quite sporty from time to time. It shows the effect strong wind can have on an aeroplane.
That banking from side to side is certainly different compared to the usual flights you might experience. Either way, the pilots had it under control and the passengers seemed to have dealt with it without any histrionics. While unusual and surprising, it is not unsafe as crews are trained to deal with this.
Flying is the safest mode of transport in the world and experiencing turbulence should not be any cause for concern. As long as you keep your seat belt loosely fastened as advised, you will never get into any trouble with it.
When going through rough air, think of it like riding some fairground ride. A little exciting, a little bit fun, and a break from the usual monotony of a smooth flight.
Have you ever experienced particularly bad turbulence? Do bumps in the flight bother you? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash.
Wake turbulence image by NASA (EL-1996-00130) via Wikimedia Commons.