TravelRisk: Turbulence is one of the most frequent causes of injuries on airplanes

    • Turbulence is one of the most frequent causes of injuries on airplanes, every year in the United States some 65,000 aircraft suffer moderate turbulence and 5,500 run into severe turbulence, costing the US airlines up to $500 million per year, due to injuries, delays and damages.
    • It is time to develop solutions that mitigate the risk of injury due to turbulence, perhaps a bicycle style helmet for flight attendants? 
    • This article reports that Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 on 21 May 2024 was not hit by clear air turbulence, but rapidly developing thunderstorms.

Most of us have experienced turbulence while traveling: when your plane flies through clashing bodies of air moving at widely different speeds.

Severe turbulence can put even the most seasoned flier on edge and make five minutes seem like an eternity. Usually it results in nothing more than a bumpy ride, but in the worst cases it can cause damage, injury and – in the case of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 on May 21 – fatality.

In nonfatal accidents, turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to flight attendants and passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and it’s one of the most common airline accident types today, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board. It costs US airlines – due to injuries, delays and damages – up to $500 million per year, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“There is a scale for measuring how strong turbulence is,” Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in the UK, told CNN in 2022. “There’s light turbulence, which is a bit of strain against your seat belt, but food service can continue and you can probably walk around the cabin, maybe with some difficulty.

“Then there’s moderate turbulence, a definite strain against seat belts, anything that’s not secured will be dislodged, and walking is difficult; flight attendants are usually instructed to take their seats.

“The worst kind is severe turbulence: This is stronger than gravity, so it can pin you to your seat and if you’re not wearing your seat belt you’ll be tossed around inside the cabin. This is the kind of turbulence that causes serious Injuries – it’s been known to break bones, for example.”

Strikes fast and no visual clues

About 65,000 aircraft suffer moderate turbulence every year in the US, and about 5,500 run into severe turbulence. These numbers, however, might be destined to grow. Williams believes that climate change is modifying turbulence, and started studying the subject in 2013. “We ran some computer simulations and found that severe turbulence could double or triple in the coming decades,” he says.

The findings, which were later confirmed by observations, highlight a type of turbulence called “clear air turbulence,” which isn’t connected to any visual clues such as storms or clouds. Unlike regular turbulence, it hits suddenly and is hard to avoid. The Singapore Airlines flight of May 21 was not hit by clear air turbulence, but rapidly developing thunderstorms.

According to the NTSB, between 2009 and 2018, the flight crew had no warning in about 28% of turbulence-related accidents. Williams’ analysis predicts that clear-air turbulence will increase significantly around the globe by the period 2050-2080, in particular along the busiest flight routes, and the strongest type of turbulence will increase the most.

That doesn’t mean, however, that flying will be less safe. “Planes are not going to start falling out of the sky, because aircraft are built to very high specification and they can withstand the worst turbulence they can ever expect to encounter, even in the future,” says Williams.

However, the average duration of turbulence will increase. “Typically, on a transatlantic flight, you might expect 10 minutes of turbulence. I think that in a few decades this may increase to 20 minutes or to half an hour. The seat belt sign will be switched on a lot more, unfortunately for passengers.”

The seat belt sign is now switched on

Keeping your seat belt fastened at all times while seated is the best way to minimize the risk of injury due to turbulence.

Flight attendants, however, are more exposed to that risk than passengers and sustain approximately 80% of all turbulence-related injuries. “We’re the most likely to get hurt because we’re up working, pushing 300-pound carts, even when there’s some sort of warning,” Sara Nelson, a United flight attendant with more than two decades of experience and the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 20 airlines, told CNN in 2022.

“We have flight attendants who have been thrown into the ceiling and then back down several times, resulting in broken limbs. In the aisle, with unannounced turbulence, we had people who lost toes, or lost the ability to work, or sustained injuries that kept them off the job for years,” she adds.

The aviation industry is taking the problem very seriously, Nelson says, but the transition to sustainable fuel must accelerate to tackle the climate crisis, and some regulations need to change. For example, the ability for children under the age of two to fly on their parents’ lap.

“That is totally unsafe and our union has been calling for a seat for every person on board,” Nelson says. “Not only can a child be thrown around the cabin, but when they come down they can actually hurt someone else, too. When a child is born, you can’t leave the hospital unless you have a properly installed car seat. The same standards must be applied to flying.”

Calls for stringent new rules

The NTSB held a public meeting about turbulence in 2021, during which it offered the same recommendation, along with more stringent rules about fastening seat belts for both passengers and flight attendants when the aircraft is flying in the vicinity of thunderstorms and under 20,000 feet, as most injuries occur under these conditions. It also recommended to streamline the systems for collecting and sharing turbulence reports, because that information isn’t traveling widely or promptly enough at the moment.

While the effects of climate change on turbulence will take many years to become obvious, Nelson believes some worsening has already occurred.

“This is of course anecdotal, but from Hurricane Katrina forward there seems to have been a pickup in the activity of turbulence, especially turbulence that comes with no warning,” she says.

Her worst ever turbulence experience occurred during a flight to Dallas, which was eventually diverted.

“When anything happens on the plane, the passengers look to us, to see if we look concerned,” she adds. “I was flying with a very good friend of mine and we were strapped in on the jump seats, facing the back of the aircraft – so there was a lavatory in front of us, instead of passengers.

“Thank goodness, because we were clutching each other and we were getting thrown around in our seats so violently that it felt like our brains were getting scrambled. It went on for a very long time, but luckily we got safely on the ground,” she says.

“Typically I’m not scared of turbulence, because it’s something that we’re taught about in training and we know what to do to protect ourselves. But it is possible to have turbulence so bad and go on for so long that even knowing all of that, my friend and I were praying – and I have to say I was scared for my life.”

This story was originally published in September 2022. It was updated and republished in May 2024 by CNN.

Travel Risk: Turbulence Singapore Airlines SQ321 killed 1 and injured 30 passengers

A passenger is dead and several others are injured after a Singapore Airlines flight hit severe turbulence on Tuesday.

Flight SQ321 had been en route to Singapore from London when the incident occurred. The Boeing 777-300ER diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing.

The flight dropped 7,000 feet in 6 minutes.

“Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” said the airline in a statement. “Our priority is to provide all possible assistance to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft. We are working with the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary medical assistance, and sending a team to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed,” the airline said.

The aircraft had a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew members on board.

Reported by BBC on 20 May 2024.

Travel Risk caused by Indonesian Batik Air pilots that fell asleep mid-flight

Indonesian airline pilots fell asleep mid-flight, says safety agency

The Indonesian air safety agency has called for better pilot fatigue monitoring mechanisms, after an investigation revealed that both pilots of a commercial aircraft had recently fallen asleep in-flight.

A pilot and co-pilot were simultaneously asleep for approximately 28 minutes during a Batik Air flight from South East Sulawesi to the capital Jakarta on January 25, a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said.

The report, seen by AFP today, was uploaded to the agency’s website in late February.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago with a poor air safety record, despite relying heavily on air transport to connect its thousands of islands.

One of the pilots had not rested adequately on the night before the flight, the report said.

The incident resulted in a series of navigation errors, but the Airbus A320’s 153 passengers and four flight attendants were unharmed during the two-hour-and-35-minute flight.

About half an hour after the plane took off, the captain asked permission from his second-in-command to rest for a while, with the request being granted.

The co-pilot then took over command of the aircraft, but also inadvertently fell asleep, the report said.

“The second-in-command had one-month twin babies. His wife took care of the babies and he assisted while at home,” the report said.

A few minutes after the last recorded transmission by the co-pilot, the area control centre in Jakarta tried to contact the aircraft. It received no answer.

Twenty-eight minutes after the last recorded transmission, the pilot woke up and realised his co-pilot was asleep and that the aircraft was not on the correct flight path.

He immediately woke his colleague up, responded to the calls from Jakarta and corrected the flight path, the report said.

The plane landed safely after the incident.

Investigators did not identify the pilots, but said they were both Indonesians and were aged 32 and 28.

KNKT urged Batik Air to create detailed procedures to conduct proper and regular cockpit checks and to ensure that pilots and cabin crew were well-rested before their flights.

Batik Air did not immediately respond to questions when contacted by AFP.

Reported on 8 March 2024 by MalayMail.

TravelRisk: Alaska 737-9 Door Plug Bolts Never Re-installed by Boeing

NTSB Report: Alaska 737-9 Door Plug Bolts Left Behind At Boeing

Alaska 737-9 door plug hole
Credit: NTSB

More digging determined the MED, which stays bolted in place except during maintenance or non-routine repairs, was not opened from the airplane’s Oct. 31, 2023, delivery to Alaska and the accident flight. This period includes time spent at AAR Corp’s Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, facility where a Wi-Fi antenna was installed.

“The manufacturing/human performance group has done a complete records review from the time the event airplane left the Boeing factory to the time of the accident and found no evidence that the left MED plug was opened after leaving Boeing’s facility,” the NTSB said.

Investigators are focusing on a repair done on Boeing’s factory floor as the period when the bolts were forgotten.

Fuselage and door plug manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems shipped the affected fuselage with several damaged rivets just in front of the left side MED plug that blew out, the NTSB found. The fuselage arrived at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, 737 production facility on Aug. 31. A day later, Boeing flagged the rivet problem and ordered it repaired.

Spirit workers assigned to the 737 factory completed the work on Sept. 19, the NTSB said. But the bolts were apparently never replaced, setting the stage for the Alaska accident.

A Boeing-supplied photo taken before the work started shows the retaining bolts in place. Photos pulled from communications between Boeing “team members” sent just after the rivet fixes were done and included in NTSB’s report show a photo of the plug in the closed position without the bolts.

Investigators don’t know exactly what happened in between or in the weeks leading up to the aircraft’s delivery.

“The investigation continues to determine what manufacturing documents were used to authorize the opening and closing of the left MED plug during the rivet rework,” the NTSB wrote.

The NTSB preliminary report does not analyze the investigators’ findings. It is not clear whether Boeing or Spirit personnel were ultimately responsible for putting the bolts back.

Boeing’s quality assurance process and its FAA-approved safety management system (SMS)—effective enough to detect the original rivet non-conformances—did not flag the missing bolts.

“Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” company CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement. “An event like this must not happen on an airplane that leaves our factory.”

Investigators are still gathering facts that will help them understand what happened.

“Interviews of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ personnel will be scheduled at a future date,” the NTSB said. “The group will also be looking at Boeing’s SMS and Spirit AeroSystems’ ongoing development of its voluntary SMS program. The group will also assess the FAA’s involvement in the manufacturers’ development of their respective SMS programs and the level of oversight applied to each.”

Fallout from the accident and related quality problems at Boeing and Spirit have both companies under intense scrutiny. The FAA has sent a team to Renton to inspect aircraft and records as part of a wave of new surveillanceand review of 737 MAX production. It also is limiting deliveries of newly built 737s to 38 per month as part of voluntary production-rate freeze.

Boeing has added internal inspections as well as more oversight in Spirit’s Wichita factory as it struggles to get its arms around chronic issues within its walls and those of its most important supplier.

Reported on 6 February 2024 by AviationWeek.

Travelrisk: Bahamas

Bahamas travel warning issued in wake of 18 murders so far this year

Travellers have been warned to think twice about visiting this tropical paradise after 18 murders so far this year and “frequent” sexual assaults.

Think twice about a tropical getaway to the Caribbean this winter.

The US embassy in the Bahamas has released a security warning and travel advisory that the island nation is currently unsafe for tourists amidst 18 murders — “primarily” motivated by gang violence — in January alone, the NY Post reports.

Safety concerns have reached a point of severity where US officials say people shouldn’t even try to “physically resist” being robbed.

“Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets,” the embassy wrote in a release, also recommending the use of “extreme caution” on the eastern side of the Bahamas’ capital city of Nassau.

The port of Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. Picture: iStock

The port of Nassau, capital of the Bahamas. Picture: iStock

The embassy also says that Americans should be especially vigilant at night-time and “keep a low profile” always.

The US State Department, which on Friday put the Bahamas on an “exercise increased caution” warning, noted that the danger persists in tourist and non-tourist areas.

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis addressed the frightening violence last week, saying that there will be roadblocks and covert police action initiated to contain the crisis, according to the Nassau Guardian.

“This may make you late for your appointments, or delay plans you have, but this is a small price to pay for the collective benefit of having our streets made safer, and our lives less blighted by murder and other violent crimes,” he said.

There is also concern over unregulated recreational watercraft activities, which according to the state department may not be properly regulated or maintained for safety, and improper judgment has been used in the past by boaters.

Travellers have been warned of the high threat of violent crime. Picture: iStock

Travellers have been warned of the high threat of violent crime. Picture: iStock

“Commercial watercraft operators have discretion to operate their vessels regardless of weather forecasts; injuries and fatalities have occurred.”

Earlier this week, the State Department also put nearby Jamaica on a level three of four “reconsider travel” advisory — the only higher threat being a “do not travel” warning.

“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common,” the department warns.

“Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.”

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution in the Bahamas due to the threat of violent crime”.

“Travellers may be victims of violent crime, including in resorts,” reads DFAT’s most recent advice as of October 26.

“Be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables out of sight. Armed robberies, burglaries, bag snatchings, theft, fraud and sexual assaults are the most common crimes committed against travellers in Freeport and Nassau. Be aware of your surroundings, even in areas usually considered safe.”

It adds, “Sexual assault frequently occurs in the Bahamas. Don’t visit deserted beaches or walk alone, especially after dark. Food and drink spiking is a risk in tourist resorts. Never leave your food or drink unattended.

Reported on 27 January 2024 by

Travelrisk for Australians: 22 Destinations with ‘Do NOT travel’ Warnings

‘Do not travel’: Destinations Aussies are warned to avoid

Travelrisk created by Ignorant Passengers

A passenger boarded a Boeing 777, then opened a door and fell out of the plane

    • An Air Canada passenger boarded a Boeing 777 and then opened a cabin door, Global News reported.
    • The person fell onto the tarmac below, and emergency services were called.
    • The incident delayed the flight’s departure to Dubai by about six hours.
An Air Canada Boeing 777 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on Tuesday 8th of August 2023.
An Air Canada Boeing 777. Robert Smith/Getty Images

An Air Canada passenger opened an aircraft door and fell about 20 feet to the ground, Global News first reported.

An airline representative told Business Insider the incident involved a Boeing 777 at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The spokesperson said the passenger “boarded the aircraft normally” but then opened a cabin door instead of going to their seat.

The representative added that the person sustained injuries from the fall and emergency services were called.

Data from Flightradar24, a flight-tracking site, shows Monday’s flight from Toronto to Dubai took off almost six hours late. It was scheduled to have 319 passengers on board.

An airline representative said: “We can confirm all of our approved boarding and cabin operating procedures were followed; we continue to review the incident.”

It’s the second time in less than a week that a passenger’s unusual behavior has delayed one of the airline’s flights.

On January 3, Air Canada diverted a flight after a 16-year-old passenger assaulted a family member, police said.

Police said other passengers and crew on the flight from Toronto to Calgary, Alberta, restrained the teen, who was arrested and taken to a hospital.

After being on the ground in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for about two hours, the flight landed in Calgary about three hours late.

Reported by Business Insider on 10 January 2024.

British couple died on luxury holiday in Egypt from carbon monoxide poisoning after adjoining room fumigated for bed bugs

British couple died on holiday after adjoining room fumigated for bed bugs

A picture taken on August 25, 2018 shows the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurghada where a British couple on holiday died within hours of each other a day before. Engineers have found no fault in the air conditioning unit or any other equipment in the hotel room, the public prosecutor said today. (Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images)

A British couple died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday at a luxury resort in Egypt after the room next door was sprayed with pesticide to kill bed bugs, a coroner has found.

John and Susan Cooper were staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in August 2018, when the room next to theirs was fumigated with a pesticide, ‘Lambda’, for a bug infestation, the UK’s PA Media reported. In some countries, Lambda is diluted with the substance dichloromethane, which causes the body to metabolize or ingest carbon monoxide.

The fumigated room, which was sealed with masking tape around the door, was connected to theirs with an adjoining door, according to PA.

The married couple returned to their room for the night but were found seriously ill the next day by their daughter. John Cooper, 69, was declared dead in the room, while his wife Susan, 63, died hours later in hospital.

John and Susan Cooper deaths. Kelly Ormerod speaks to the media outside Preston Coroner's Court after the pre-inquest hearing into the deaths of her parents, John and Susan Cooper, who died after becoming ill while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada on August 21 last year. Picture date: Wednesday May 1, 2019. See PA story INQUEST Egypt. Photo credit should read: Pat Hurst/PA Wire URN:42616564 (Press Association via AP Images)

Dr. James Adelely, senior coroner for the English county of Lancashire, ruled that the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of inhaling the vapor from spraying the pesticide which contained dichloromethane, PA reported.

“To this day, our family struggle to comprehend what happened,” the couple’s daughter Kelly Ormerod, who was on holiday with her parents at the time, said in a statement following the inquest.

“It should have never been allowed to happen”.

She said that “nothing would make up for the pain and loss we felt since that day,” adding: “The last few years have been the most traumatic and emotional time for all of us involved.”

Reported on 10 November 2023 by CNN.



travelrisk: passenger opens door during Asiana flight, mental illness?

The Asiana Airlines plane is parked at Daegu International Airport.

A passenger aboard a South Korean flight opened an emergency door moments before the plane landed — sparking caught-on-video chaos and panic among the 194 passengers in the wind-swept cabin.

The Asiana Airlines Airbus A321 was about to land in Daegu after a flight from the southern island of Jeju on Friday when the passenger pulled the emergency exit handle at an altitude of about 700 feet, officials said.

Some of the other passengers tried to prevent the person from reaching the door but it partially opened, sending air whipping throughout the cabin as terrified fliers gripped their armrests.

Among the 194 passengers onboard were several teenage athletes who were on their way to a weekend sporting event in Ulsan.

At least a dozen people suffered minor injuries in the harrowing incident before the plane landed safely, according to the Transportation Ministry.

Several showed symptoms of breathing difficulty and were taken to a local hospital, Yonhap reported.

“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board through broadcasting,” a passenger told the local news outlet.

“I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this,” the 44-year-old added.

One teen’s mother told the news outlet: “Children quivered and cried in panic. Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most.”

The suspect, identified only as a man in his 30s, was arrested at Daegu International Airport and confessed to opening the door, but would not say why he did it, CNN reported.

Witnesses told local media that the unhinged passenger also tried to jump out of the plane.

“It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him,” an official said, according to the BBC. “We will investigate the motive of the crime and punish him.”

Geoffrey Thomas, an aviation expert with Airline Ratings, described the incident as “very bizarre.”

“Technically, it’s not possible to open those doors in flight,” he told CNN.

He said winds of about 170 mph would have been passing the plane when the door was opened.

“It seems implausible that the door could be opened in the first place and then against the airstream technically impossible, but somehow or another it has happened,” Thomas added.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said an aviation safety official would check whether there was an abnormality in the plane’s maintenance, CNN reported.

Reported on 26 May 2023 by New York Post.

Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) impact travel in 2023

Dubai’s Emirates posts travel warning over killer Marburg virus

Travellers are advised to postpone trips unless absolutely necessary

emirates Marburg virus travel warning

Dubai’s Emirates has posted a travel warning on its website for customers travelling to Oman due to the confirmed break of the killer Marburg virus. The warning was issued by the Omani authorities to all airlines.

The advisory was issued on Thursday, stating that “those who have travelled from the impacted countries must isolate themselves and seek immediate assistance if they feel unwell within 21 days of travel.”

The warning was issued upon instruction by Oman authorities, advising travellers to postpone trips to countries affected by the Marburg virus and take precautions if the travel is urgent.

Oman’s travel advisory on Marburg virus outbreak

The issue statement reads, “Due to the confirmed outbreak of the Marburg virus in the Republic of Tanzania and Guinea, customers arriving in Oman, and who have travelled from the impacted countries must isolate themselves and seek immediate assistance if they feel unwell within 21 days of travel. The Oman authorities also advise travellers to postpone trips to countries affected by the Marburg virus and take precautions if the travel is urgent. Further details are available on the Oman Ministry of Health website.

The Oman Ministry noted that note that efforts are being made to contain the outbreak in its current geographical scope.

Precautions to avoid the highly infectious disease, as per the Oman Ministry:

  1. Avoid direct contact with patients with symptoms like fever, muscle ache, and skin rash, as well as avoid visiting areas affected by Marburg Virus Disease (MVD).
  2. Avoid contact with blood and other body fluids, in general, from other people.
  3. Avoid contact with fruit bats or visiting mines and caves inhabited by these bats.
  4. Avoid contact with animals such as chimpanzees and gorillas.
  5. Travelers who are infected with fever, chills, muscle pain, skin rash, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, or unprovoked bleeding from anywhere or bruising during or after travel (till 21 days) should isolate themselves from others and head to the nearest healthcare institution (emergencies departments in hospitals). They should disclose to medical staff whether they have traveled to the infected areas or contacted people with Marburg Virus Disease (MVD).

The Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) is highly infectious, with a fatality rate of around 60 percent to 80 percent.

Reported on 7 April 2023 by ArabianBusiness.