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Beware of deadly flying laptops as air turbulence doubles

March 5, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59It is increasingly crucial to securely stow all carry-on baggage, including laptops and iPads, during flight, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), has warned.

The ATSB’s newly released report into an incident on 8 November 2013 in which passengers were injured by flying portable computers as a Qantas B767 struck severe turbulence while descending into Sydney, contains the following ominous sentence: “In recent research, the ATSB is seeing a doubling of turbulence and windshear events in passenger operations, some affecting the safety of those in the cabin.”

Worsening turbulence presumably derives from changing weather patterns.

In the case of the Qantas B767, the turbulence lasted for about two minutes and the crew discontinued the approach and initiated a go-around. Island Hopping

“During the climb of the go-around, the aircraft experienced more turbulence and one passenger sustained a serious head injury from a laptop computer that fell from an overhead locker,” the ATSB reported. “Another received a rib injury and a third was injured by an iPad.”

After circling for about 20 minutes, a further attempt to land was aborted by turbulence.

“The crew declared a PAN and diverted to Williamtown, New South Wales,” the ATSB says.

‘PAN’ is a step below ‘Mayday’ in degrees of seriousness. ‘Mayday’ is reserved for situations where life is in immediate danger or the viability or integrity of flight is at risk.

After landing safely, the injured passengers were transported to hospital for treatment.

“This incident is a timely reminder for passengers to stow all carry-on baggage (including laptops and iPads) securely in the overhead lockers or under the seat in front of them, especially when the seatbelt sign is turned on,” the ATSB points out. “These items can become projectiles during turbulence if not properly secured.”

The report continues that before departure from Melbourne, weather reports had indicated the possibility of only moderate turbulence below 5000 feet. After the incident, the Bureau of Meteorology reported that a strong and gusty south-westerly change had produced windshear as the change encountered the north-easterly sea-breeze. This sudden change affected the landing.

The ATSB report makes gripping reading and shows how close the crew came to losing control of the aircraft:

“The crew reported that full go-around power was required to maintain altitude and speed, and they experienced difficulty controlling the aircraft. In the cabin, one passenger sustained a serious injury; one passenger sustained a minor rib injury and a third passenger sustained a minor injury from an iPad.

“After orbiting for about 20 minutes, the crew commenced an approach to runway 16 Right. Passing about 5,000 ft AMSL, the aircraft again encountered severe turbulence and was difficult to control, and the crew again conducted a missed approach and commenced a turn to the north.

“At about 2127, based on the remaining fuel quantity and the turbulence on the approach to Sydney, the crew declared a ‘PAN’ and elected to divert to Williamtown, New South Wales.  The aircraft landed at Williamtown with fuel reserves intact.”

The ATSB’s Aviation Safety Bulletin ‘Staying Safe against In-flight Turbulence’ points out that 99% of people aboard an aircraft receive no injuries during a typical “turbulence event”.

“However, in recent research, the ATSB is seeing a doubling of turbulence and windshear events in passenger operations, some affecting the safety of those in the cabin.”

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Mark Cameron says:

    food and drink trolleys are not secured when they are in the aisles of aircraft – perhaps they should be ?

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