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What Is The Truth Behind Turbulence  
User currently offlinecpqi From Brazil, joined Apr 2010, 47 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 9135 times:

I am a very frequent and nervous flyer. A few hours ago we departed SCL for GRU. Over the Maipo Valley and then turned to the Andes. On reaching the Andes the plane dropped and climbed rather violently for 3 minutes. People screamed and many prayed for safety (or a quick death). It was perhaps the worst I have experienced, although I know that it was only severe turbulence and not extreme (no trolleys hitting the roof). As I sit in GRU waiting for the connection to FOR I am wondering if the engineers or pilots can give a really honest answer. I know the wings bend, I know planes are made for the worst of conditions - but it this dangerous ? Txs


I hate turbulence
46 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinesandyb123 From UK - Scotland, joined Oct 2007, 1109 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 9108 times:
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Quoting cpqi (Thread starter):
but it this dangerous

Short answer is that in 99.99% of cases no.

Turbulence is when the wing / aircraft flies through disturbed air or areas of high and low pressure close together. This causes changes to the lift in the wing which is what then creates the bumpy flight.

Depending on the aircraft you flew the flight director will adjust the control surfaces, throttles etc to maintain as smooth a flight as possible at the altitude, route and speed selected. I came back across the alps on Saturday night PMI - EDI in a A319 and it was a bit choppy over central France. Was loving the feeling of the plane compensating for the lumpy air.

There are cases of extreme turbulence causing structural damage but it's so rare nothing to worry about  

Sandyb123



Member of the mile high club
User currently offlinecpqi From Brazil, joined Apr 2010, 47 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 9076 times:

Thanks Sandy - I know the question is asked too often and after more than 500 flights I believe what you say. I guess after such a scary route (and it was severe believe me) I just need to read some reassuring words


I hate turbulence
User currently offlinePihero From France, joined Jan 2005, 4449 posts, RR: 76
Reply 3, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 8915 times:
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Quoting sandyb123 (Reply 1):

Turbulence is when the wing / aircraft flies through disturbed air or areas of high and low pressure close together.

Turbulence is when the airflow is no longer laminar : there isq an amount of vertical movements inside the flow.
That kind of disturbances of the smooth current has many causes :
- Thermals inside which one sees convective movements, generally materialised by cumulus-type clouds;
- Convection inside a cloud mass. these *convective* currents are the reason a cloud keeps on existing / growing.
- *Orographic* turbulence or *mountain waves*, happens when there is an important obstacle across the wind flow ; as a matter of fact, you'd see two *floors* of disturbance :
1/- the wave at altitude, generally materialised by a set of lenticular clouds, and
2/- a set of rotors just behind the lee-side of the mountain range . Either one of these two phenomena could have associated severe turbulence. That's the turbulence that the OP experienced and it's a lot more usual than people would think? Happens everytime there is a westerly blowing across the Andes (which is about 350 days a year).
- Lastly, the turbulence associated with the Jet stream, on the cold side. It can generate severe CAT if there is a compression associated, i.e a drastic change of direction or a descending airflow.

Most of these can be easily forecasted... BUT it doesn't mean it can be avoided : taking off from SCL, well, you should know you could be in for a bumpy ride. IMHO, the pilot should have warned the passengers and reassured them prior to the event : "Ladies and gentlemen, there is quite a lot of wind blowing over the Andes and the flight up to Mendoza could be rather bumpy. I'd advise you to make sure your seat belt is securily fastened, just for your comfort"...



Contrail designer
User currently offlineChrisba777er From UK - England, joined Mar 2001, 5964 posts, RR: 62
Reply 4, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 8885 times:

Not dangerous - scary sometimes but not dangerous.

I think the best thing, in a weird sort of way, is to experience prolonged severe turbulence first hand. Its not pleasant, but once you experience it, you have a frame of reference and compare all future events to it. Most people encounter severe turbulence once or twice in their lives - many people think they have encountered it, but few actually have as it is quite rare for aircraft to fly into/near it for obvious reasons. Its not unsafe, its just that nobody wants trolleys and bags and stuff flying round the cabin, and the cabin crew do not want to be cleaning chunder off the carpets and seats.

I've encountered it once - enjoyed it at the time because my wife (who is a nervous flyer and would have been terrified) wasnt with me.



What do you mean you dont have any bourbon? Do you know how far it is to Houston? What kind of airline is this???
User currently offlinegoldorak From France, joined Sep 2006, 1843 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8473 times:

Quoting Pihero (Reply 3):
Lastly, the turbulence associated with the Jet stream, on the cold side. It can generate severe CAT if there is a compression associated, i.e a drastic change of direction or a descending airflow.

Thank you Pihero for these explanations. The case I quoted from your post is probably what I experienced (?) recently aboard AF A388 flying to IAD on sunday July 10. We experienced severe turbulences (according to the warning given by the Captain) during 15 min, passing south of Greenland. The worst turbulences I experienced and the 15 min seemed very long. But the big whale managed it very well  


User currently offlinePihero From France, joined Jan 2005, 4449 posts, RR: 76
Reply 6, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 8153 times:
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Quoting goldorak (Reply 5):
We experienced severe turbulences (according to the warning given by the Captain) during 15 min, passing south of Greenland.

Yes, in all probability. It's one of the places I've seen the worst CAT.



Contrail designer
User currently offlineFoxBravo From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2998 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 8109 times:

Quoting Pihero (Reply 3):

Thanks, Pihero, for the very informative summary.

Quoting goldorak (Reply 5):
The case I quoted from your post is probably what I experienced (?) recently aboard AF A388 flying to IAD on sunday July 10. We experienced severe turbulences (according to the warning given by the Captain) during 15 min, passing south of Greenland. The worst turbulences I experienced and the 15 min seemed very long. But the big whale managed it very well

Very interesting to hear of your experience, Goldorak, since I was also on an AF A388 on July 10, flying from JFK to CDG. My flight was also quite bumpy over the mid-Atlantic, much to my surprise as I was expecting a smoother ride on the "whale." I suspect we were a bit farther south than your route, as we were heading east--the turbulence wasn't severe, but it was enough to wake me up, and definitely rougher than the average transatlantic flight (and I've taken a dozen so far this year!). Must have been a strong jetstream that day.



Common sense is not so common. -Voltaire
User currently offlinejrodATC From United States of America, joined Mar 2011, 46 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 8024 times:

Quoting goldorak (Reply 5):
We experienced severe turbulences (according to the warning given by the Captain) during 15 min, passing south of Greenland. The worst turbulences I experienced and the 15 min seemed very long. But the big whale managed it very well

Glad I didn't deal with any CAT on a recent flight to KEF. The trip from JFK to KEF was just south of Greenland and the return was through the country... Again, smooth in both directions on an FI 757 named Hengill  .

I am also a nervous flyer but what makes me most nervous are the prospects of hidden issues with aircraft such as human factors, metal fatigue parts, potentially shoddy maintenance, and freak accidents a la Scandinavian 751, UA 811, TK 981, AS 281, etc...

I try not to think about it by telling myself fate is fate and if it's going to happen, it'll happen.


User currently offlinegoldorak From France, joined Sep 2006, 1843 posts, RR: 4
Reply 9, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 7985 times:

Quoting FoxBravo (Reply 7):
Very interesting to hear of your experience, Goldorak, since I was also on an AF A388 on July 10, flying from JFK to CDG. My flight was also quite bumpy over the mid-Atlantic, much to my surprise as I was expecting a smoother ride on the "whale." I suspect we were a bit farther south than your route, as we were heading east--the turbulence wasn't severe, but it was enough to wake me up, and definitely rougher than the average transatlantic flight (and I've taken a dozen so far this year!). Must have been a strong jetstream that day.

That's funny  
And you were also flying later than me in this zone, so the conditions may have changed a bit. I crossed the Atlantic may be close to 200 times but this is the worst I had. The 2nd worst transatlantic flight, in terms of turbulences, was a DTW-CDG in feb 2010 on board an AF A332 with 1/3 of the flight time very very bumpy in a continuous way, which is very annoying and disturbing. Of course impossible to sleep in these conditions.


User currently offlineFoxBravo From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2998 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 7897 times:

Quoting goldorak (Reply 9):
And you were also flying later than me in this zone, so the conditions may have changed a bit. I crossed the Atlantic may be close to 200 times but this is the worst I had. The 2nd worst transatlantic flight, in terms of turbulences, was a DTW-CDG in feb 2010 on board an AF A332 with 1/3 of the flight time very very bumpy in a continuous way, which is very annoying and disturbing. Of course impossible to sleep in these conditions.

True, it was late in the evening by the time we passed through that area. I'm glad it smoothed out a bit for my flight. I haven't crossed the Atlantic quite as often as you, but have done it at least 80 times, in a wide variety of conditions. I agree, continuous turbulence can be very annoying, especially when trying to sleep--I've had a few flights like that. The rational part of me knows that there's really no danger, but I still find it difficult to relax during stronger turbulence. Actually, on my recent A380 flight, there were two problems--even when the turbulence itself didn't wake me up, the A380 cabin is so quiet that the "fasten seatbelt" announcements woke me up every time!



Common sense is not so common. -Voltaire
User currently offlinekellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 693 posts, RR: 8
Reply 11, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 7808 times:

Sounds you like you hit mountain wave turbulence over the Andes.

Transport category aircraft are designed to withstand 2.5 Gs positive and 1.0 Gs negative. (Actually they are tested to much greater tolerances than that).


User currently offlineworldliner From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 275 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 7763 times:

Isnt it just weather at high altitude? I believe turbulence is worse over mountain ranges and at lower altitudes.

The worst experience i have had is on a BA 767 on JFK - MAN, where even the flight attendants were scared and i dont remember the fasten seatbelt sign going off for a good 2-3 hours.

Whenever going across the Atlantic now i find myself on a 777, and we usually fly a few thousand feet higher, and its always smooth.



@777Worldliner
User currently offlineLAXdude1023 From India, joined Sep 2006, 7615 posts, RR: 24
Reply 13, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 7706 times:

In my travels, this is what Ive found. For the smoothest rides:

Crossing the Atlantic: between late April and September
Crossing the Pacific: between May and October
South America: March-June/October-December, however, you can always expect some turbulence crossing the ITCZ

As bumpy as the Atlantic can get, crossing the Pacific is always more turblent. The nastiest turbulence Ive ever had was from NRT to DFW last May. Of the 11 hours in the flight, 10 1/2 were smooth, but we hit a patch of severe turbulence that was crazy about an hour off the coast of Japan.



Stewed...Lewd...Crude...Irreverent...Belligerent
User currently offlineemalad From United Kingdom, joined May 2006, 449 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 7654 times:

I'm not normally scared by turbulance, however 2 instances made me feel a little nervous/worried:

Bay of Bengal - Every time I have flown to Malaysia/Australia on MH we have experienced quite bad turbulance when the cabin crew have been instructed to stop serving the meals and go back to their seats. The first time, they got to the row infront of me and had to stop, I was a little annoyed but was happier when there was a large bump and the meals went all over the laps of the people eating infront    Was pretty cool sitting by the wing and watching it flex!

Manchester - Last February I was on a KLM flight to Amsterdam. We took off towards Stockport and I have never felt so scared in my life. The plane was climbing with a bit of bumping, then suddenly the plane dropped, throttled up and started to climb, dropped again, throttled up and climbed fairly bumpy. There was no comment or anything from the captain, but people were pretty scared. Not sure what caused it though, as I can't remember it being that windy.


User currently offline744lover From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 187 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 7569 times:

Hi cpqi...


This kind of turbulance is very tipical from the Andes... You feel like on a roller-coaster: all of a suden it drops a few hundred feet and then up again....


Best regards!
744lover


User currently offlineFoxBravo From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2998 posts, RR: 4
Reply 16, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 7513 times:

Quoting LAXdude1023 (Reply 13):
As bumpy as the Atlantic can get, crossing the Pacific is always more turblent.

Totally agree. Some of my roughest flights have been over the Pacific--it always seems to be "cabin crew be seated" for a stretch east of Japan, and I've also had some nasty turbulence between Hawaii and California. The good news is that, at least in my experience, the worst of it doesn't usually last very long.

Quoting emalad (Reply 14):
Bay of Bengal

Yep, that's another bumpy spot for sure.

I think the worst I've had, though, was right after takeoff from Palm Springs in a CRJ--felt like we were being thrown all over the place for a few crazy moments.



Common sense is not so common. -Voltaire
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 79
Reply 17, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 7463 times:

Quoting cpqi (Thread starter):
although I know that it was only severe turbulence and not extreme (no trolleys hitting the roof).

From your description, it may not even have reached the level of severe. Turbulence strong enough to damage the airplane is far beyond what will petrify even seasoned fliers.

Quoting cpqi (Thread starter):
. I know the wings bend, I know planes are made for the worst of conditions - but it this dangerous ?

Not as you described it, no.

Tom.


User currently offlinePihero From France, joined Jan 2005, 4449 posts, RR: 76
Reply 18, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 7415 times:
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I wouldn't like this thread to turn into scary experiences :
YOU ARE QUITE SAFE !

Let's, shall we get a more accurate idea of the influence of turbulence in terms of accelerations, bearing in mind that an aircraft, by certification can sustain 2.5 g without a permanent deformation.
1:- Horizontal gust :
The formula is N = 1 + 2 v / V where N is the acceleration ( we prefer the term *load factor* ), v the gust velocity and V the aircraft speed. Here, let's take a speed of 250 m/s equivalent to a .82 Mach or 485 kt.
developping the above, we find that 2v / V = 1.5 ===> v = 1.5 x 250 / 2 = 187.5 m/s or 675 km/h or 365 kt.
That's one hell of a gust !

2:- Vertical gust :
Here the formula goes N = 1 + k v.V /W/s where W/s is the wing loading and k a coefficient for each aircraft which takes into account its characteristics : wing and airframe elasticity, damping... etc...
The *instantaneous* gust does not exist but we accept that k could be around .2, thus the gust value will be around 15 m/s or some 2600 ft/min
That's one hell of a gust, too. !
Of course, the slower the aircraft gets, the lower the load factor. In some freak weather occurrences,i.e mountain wave situation over the Rockies, aircraft encounter them during their approach or initial climb-out phases, when their speeds are still quite low.
So, you see, turbulence can be impressive, spectacular...etc... but you are very far from the inflight break-up scenario !
On the other hand, it's a reminder that one should keep one's seat belt securily fastened as being projected to the ceiling is the most dangerous aspect of turbulence.

[Edited 2011-07-28 14:20:50]


Contrail designer
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17040 posts, RR: 66
Reply 19, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 7353 times:

As one pilot immortally said: "If you're going to worry, don't worry about turbulence. Worry about windshear."

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 17):
Turbulence strong enough to damage the airplane is far beyond what will petrify even seasoned fliers.

Quite. The vast majority of turbulence experienced by pax is "light". Sometimes "moderate" is encountered. "Severe" is apparently quite something but I am pretty sure I've ever been there, despite hundreds of flights, some of them very bumpy. And even "severe" is typically no danger.

Quoting cpqi (Thread starter):
I know that it was only severe turbulence and not extreme (no trolleys hitting the roof).

I don't think "extreme" is an official definition. As I have been told it is as follows.:

Moderate Turbulence. There may be moderate changes in aircraft attitude and/or altitude, but the aircraft remains under positive control at all times - usually, small variations in air speed - changes in accelerometer readings of 0.5g to 1.0g at the aircraft's centre of gravity - difficulty in walking - occupants feel a strain against seat belts - loose objects move about.

Severe Turbulence. Abrupt changes in aircraft attitude and/or altitude - aircraft may be out of control for short periods - usually, large variations in air speed - changes in accelerometer readomgs greater than 1.0g at the aircraft's centre of gravity - occupants are forced violently against seat belts - loose objects are tossed about.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinedlednicer From United States of America, joined May 2005, 544 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 7290 times:
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DATABASE EDITOR



User currently offlineFoxBravo From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2998 posts, RR: 4
Reply 21, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 7258 times:

Quoting dlednicer (Reply 20):

Haha, that cartoon was the first thing I thought of when I saw the thread title! It's a classic.



Common sense is not so common. -Voltaire
User currently offlinebond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5417 posts, RR: 8
Reply 22, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 7244 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 19):
Quite. The vast majority of turbulence experienced by pax is "light". Sometimes "moderate" is encountered. "Severe" is apparently quite something but I am pretty sure I've ever been there, despite hundreds of flights, some of them very bumpy. And even "severe" is typically no danger.

Right! It's possible that although the pilot may have advised pax about the 'severe turbulence', that may have been 'severe' as in what the pax might expect, and not the true definition. Few flights encounter severe turbulence, and from my experience of pax reports, they generally classify the level of turbulence at least one level higher than it actually is.


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlinecpqi From Brazil, joined Apr 2010, 47 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 7225 times:

I want to thank you all for so much comment. From the description this was indeed severe turbluence, we were on a violent roller coaster. I have landed in NY in a thunderstorm with lightening all around and in a snowstorm in Glasgow - that was tame compared to the turblence on this flight. Pihero - as always that is some fantastic analysis. The knowledge does really help to calm my nerves. Chrisba777er - I totally agree with you. The connecting flight from GRU to FOR was more turbulent than usual but frankly I didnt care (aside from the lack of sleep). I had survived the big one and nothing else would match that. 744lover - I think you have helped me decide that someone else will be making regular trips to SCL to care for our business there, not me !!! As always great help and advice from the professionals


I hate turbulence
User currently offlinebond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5417 posts, RR: 8
Reply 24, posted (3 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 7220 times:

Quoting cpqi (Reply 23):
From the description this was indeed severe turbluence

Yes, I wasn't implying your experience wasn't severe ... but generally pax say 'severe' when it's barely moderate


Jimbo

[Edited 2011-07-28 19:17:15]


I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
25 wn700driver : I think moderate chop is about the most I've ever experienced. When it was done, our galley looked like a pantry threw up in there. There was crap ev
26 SAAFNAV : For a pax, very dangerous if you don't keep your seatbelt fastened. Even if it is just lightly around your lap
27 Starlionblue : Probably not severe actually. Severe turbulence is avoided by pilots if at all possible. As wn700driver notes, even "moderate" is quite enough to mak
28 ILUV767 : Severe turbulence requires an aircraft inspection.
29 voiceofgoa : I was recently on an Icelandair flight from SEA to KEF. It was smooth until about an hour from Iceland (we had just crossed the shore of eastern Green
30 Post contains images KELPkid : If you don't want to be subject to bumps and the movements of the fluid in which you're travelling, then don't travel in it It just happens to be the
31 Starlionblue : Not sure if it is really special training, but certainly pilots used to flying in the tropics tend to have more practice in the conditions. Down here
32 Viscount724 : FAA description of turbulence types: TURBULENCE INTENSITY a. Light Chop. Slight, rapid, and somewhat rhythmic bumpiness without appreciable changes i
33 tdscanuck : Amen to that. I've heard an awful lot of "Cleared to deviate 100 miles left/right of course for weather" in the South Pacific. Tom.
34 Shnoob940 : I have had an experience like that on a DJ flight BNE-SYD a few years back. We were the last flight in before they closed the airport due to severe w
35 Goldenshield : Except that mountain waves aren't actually turbulent. They are quite smooth. The inability to maintain altitude could be disasterous when you have mu
36 Pihero : Turbulence could be defined as the loss of laminarity of the airflow, i.e the different vectors materialising the flow are no longer parallel to one
37 eisenbach : Completely laminar flows over mountain ranges and even hills are very rare - as the air flow is disturbed, you will have rotors, "ripples", waves,...
38 notaxonrotax : Understood. However, what if it happens at very low altitude? I know wind shear is a different phenomena, but unexpected violent movements has brough
39 Post contains images Starlionblue : Well sure, but it would have to be VERY violent to actually send the aircraft out of control or damage the aircraft. In most cases turbulence just bu
40 tdscanuck : Yes, when testing calls for it. Not that I'm aware of. I certainly haven't, although I've had wind shear warnings during other flying. I've seen mode
41 Pihero : Yeah ! Seen some real sporty approaches there (2 GoArounds once !)
42 Goldenshield : I agree with you here. Flying through the wave slowly, as gliders do, you wouldn't see much change at all. Flying through it at jet speeds, the const
43 Aquila3 : Yes, I guess Wieners are quite acquainted with turbolences an wind in general. You can experience them even in a car riding the highway to the south
44 notaxonrotax : You mean you go a bit further into the weather system to make sure you go negative? Or do pilots make violent inputs to get over the 0g edge? I do wo
45 Starlionblue : My guess is that's what static testing is for. No need to risk the aircraft.
46 tdscanuck : I can't speak for all, by my group would never go for 0g in a weather system...we'd do it in clear air with a visible horizon and minimal turbulence.
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