When people hear “aircraft accident,” they generally think of a crash. However, according to a new report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), turbulence is the most common type of aircraft accident and the most common cause of injuries on aircraft.
Turbulence is caused by changes in the air created by things like jet streams, atmospheric pressure, thunderstorms and warm and cold weather fronts. It’s common to feel it when flying over a mountain range. It usually occurs when an aircraft is flying at under 20,000 feet.
Flight attendants suffer most of these injuries, but passengers are also at risk
Turbulence can cause serious injuries to passengers and flight crew members. According to the NTSB report, almost 80 percent of turbulence-related injuries are suffered by flight attendants. That makes sense, of course, because they’re most likely to be walking around – or at least not belted into a seat – when unexpected turbulence strikes. Even after it does, they may spend a few minutes walking through the cabin to make sure passengers are seated and wearing their seat belts before taking a seat themselves.
The NTSB also announced steps to decrease turbulence-related injuries, including improved reporting among pilots when they encounter turbulence. As the acting NTSB chairman stated, “Pilot reports of turbulence conditions are a tremendous help to both pilots and forecasters to predict and avoid hazardous turbulence and subsequent injuries.” Another is improvements to forecasting systems.
What can be done to reduce injuries?
The NTSB report recommends updating and streamlining turbulence reporting systems so that they can be available on more types of aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would need to do that, in partnership with the National Weather Service (NWS).
As the study pointed out, sometimes even the latest equipment can’t predict turbulence. That’s why it’s crucial for luggage and other heavy items to be stowed securely so they can’t fly across a cabin and seriously injure someone – even someone who’s taken the added precaution of leaving their seat belt on throughout the flight.
If you have been seriously injured by hitting something during turbulence or by something striking you, it’s crucial to get the compensation you need for medical bills and other expenses and damages. It may also be worthwhile to determine whether negligence by the airline or its employees, the aircraft manufacturer or any other party is involved.