Flight secrets: Pilot reveals surprising facts about turbulence

Turbulence is a huge reason why a lot of people become anxious fliers. The uncertainty of it means that fliers do not know what will happen and if turbulence is dangerous or not. The outside weather and temperature cannot be controlled by a pilot but they do have some control when it comes to turbulence.


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Though turbulence ranks as a number one concern for airline passengers, turbulence is perfectly normal.

Pilot Patrick Smith and host of AskThePilot.com said: “From our perspective, turbulence is, for lack of a better term, normal.

“In really rare cases, it can injure people and damage aircraft, but in practise it’s a comfort and convenience issue rather than a safety issue.”

Pilots are trained to deal with turbulence.

To try and prevent it, pilots carefully study the weather patterns, plan ahead, and choose the best route before every flight.

Patrick explains that pilots do not even think about turbulence and think of it just as the aircraft passing through a bumpy patch.

He says: “In the minds of passengers, the plane is plummeting hundreds of thousands of feet, but we might only see a twitch of 10 or 20 feet on the altimeter.”

If the pilots are not expecting turbulence and it happens all of a sudden, you will likely immediately feel a sudden lifting force as the planes computers compensate to keep the velocity the same.

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However this sudden lifting will likely result in the seat-belt signs being turned off as it can cause the plane to rock from side to side.

Flight attendant at Cathay Pacific, Derry Lin took to Quora to explain how important listening to the pilot and cabin crew is.

He wrote: “Turbulence is definitely more dangerous than you think. When you see us talking down the aisle when we tell you to fasten your seatbelts, you think we’re overreacting. We’re not. Do what we tell you to do.

“There is a reason we tell you to do something, please don’t make your job hard and just do it.”


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This is because due to the nature of flight attendants jobs they are much more likely to be hurt if there is a spot of turbulence and so the least passengers could do is stay seated.

According to The Points Guy, 80 percent of turbulence is classified as ‘light’.

In aviation, turbulence is categorised by severity, from light to extreme.

Patrick explains that he’s never encountered extreme turbulence in his entire career as a pilot and people worry about it more than they need to.

This is understandable though with some passengers even saying they feel like the plane is falling out of the sky.

He assures passengers that the pilots do everything they can to avoid or minimise turbulence.

Though you are less likely to feel the plane flying through turbulence on a bigger plane, you may be more likely to feel it at the back of the plane.

The smoothest of seats tend to be the ones in centre as they are placed over the wing. This is close to the planes centre of lift and gravity meaning passengers over the wing can be feeling less turbulence than those at the rear.

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