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Flight safety warning over ‘unprecedented’ turbulence

March 19, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Air turbulence in Australia doubled over a three-month period last year and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published a booklet to help passengers understand the increasing turbulence and keep themselves safer.

The ATSB confirmed that flights are getting bumpier as air turbulence increases. It recorded last year an “unprecedented” increase in turbulence events, which it refers to as “weather-related occurrences involving high-capacity air transport aircraft”.

The ATSB is sufficiently concerned to have produced a special bulletin for download and distribution to clients. Entitled “Staying Safe against In-flight Turbulence” and illustrated with photos and diagrams, it is available for free download by clicking here.

“We are seeing a doubling of turbulence and windshear events in passenger operations,” Dr Stuart Godley, head of the ATSB’s Aviation Safety Research team, stated. “And some of those events are affecting the safety of those in the cabin.”

The number of turbulence and windshear related occurrences involving high-capacity aircraft is significantly above the five-year historical average.

The ATSB finding squares with a UK scientific study last year that predicted bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence as climate change affects the world’s jet streams. Jet streams are the fast, 1.5 kilometre-wide winds that blast around the Earth at the same altitude as commercial planes fly.

The UK study, coordinated by the University of Reading, found that the frequency of turbulence on the many flights between Europe and North America would double by 2050 and its intensity would increase by 10-40%. The same seems to be true of Australia.

Turbulence is caused by the irregular movement of air, and often cannot be seen. When air masses with different speeds, direction or temperatures meet each other, turbulence is likely to occur. While turbulence is normal and occurs frequently, it can be dangerous.

The ATSB found that, from October to December of 2013, the number of turbulence and windshear related occurrences involving high-capacity aircraft was significantly above the five-year historical average, and had actually doubled compared to the previous three months.

“Because they’re weather-related, these events are cyclical,” Godley explained.

“We’re used to seeing more of them in the summer, but this increase is unprecedented. We’re especially concerned because there is a correlation between these events and cabin safety issues, especially cabin injuries due to turbulence.”

In fact, turbulence is the leading cause of in-flight injuries to passengers and cabin crew.

To help passengers understand turbulence and keep themselves safer, the ATSB has produced its new factsheet/booklet.

Written by : Peter Needham

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