NCLairport
Topic Author
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Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 6:35 am

Just been reading in another post about how some people have experienced bad turbulence over the rockies and it reminded me about my flight with VS to LAX last summer. We were thrown all over the place and had a few 'severe' drops over the rockies and the pilot came on and said it was normal for this time of year.....

Am I likely to experience the same thing again this summer on the same route? if so im a bit worried. Is there ever any real danger to the aircraft?
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Brick
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 7:26 am

Damage to the aircraft? Extremely unlikely. You should worry about a vending machine falling on you on the way to the airport more than the plane being damaged due to turbulence. In the extremely rare cause an aircraft is damaged, the damage tends to be minor. Injuries to passengers? Absolutely if they aren't belted in. Flight attendents are usually the ones that get hurt though.

I flew DEN-ABQ on Monday and back the following day. The mountain waves were really bad...almost near continuous moderate chop at all altitudes up to FL390. The flight attendents were not allowed out of the seats on both flights. I couldn't keep my laptop on the tray (let alone type on it). Both days were some of the worst turbulence I've experienced in a long time...

Mark
A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man...
 
Biggles
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 7:55 am

Dozens of flights cross over the Rockies every day with no problems.I would be more worried about earthquakes,mudslides,wildfires,gangs,muggers and wacko celebrities in SUV's after you land in L.A.
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Squigee
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:08 am

Hi NCLairport,

The reason for the turbulence you encountered was most likely due to the "jetstream." This is a channel of air that sits at around 25,000 to 35,000 feet, so right in the path of commercial aircraft (there are lower level jetstreams, but they are usually not as strong.) This jetstream is moved around North America by low and high pressure weather systems, but it usually sits right over the BC/Alberta Continential Divide. Here is a weather map, the jetstream is the white squiggle:



This is the current map, and as you can see, the jetstream is in its usual spot.

Generally speaking, the jetstream does not provide very powerful turbulence (this would be the result of storm systems) but it is very common to get light to moderate chop as a result of this stream.

Go to the weather network's website and check to see where the jetstream is before your flight; if its over the mountains, you may be in for a fun ride! Just keep in mind that it's very normal, lots of other planes go through it all the time, and that its well within the normal operating limits of the aircraft. Just think of how many times Air Canada or Westjet pilots go through it safely!
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N766UA
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:16 am

You very well might get some chop, it's just one of the things you gotta go through if you're crossing the rockies. However, in a big airliner it's more hit and miss. I flew CLE-SFO one year and experianced no chop over the mountains whatsoever.
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freedomtofly
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:17 am

Quoting Brick (Reply 1):
The mountain waves were really bad...almost near continuous moderate chop at all altitudes up to FL390

I flew DEN-ABQ and back last month. Going there was ok except for the descent. But going back the captain never turned off the seatbelt sign and advised us before the flight that it would be bumpy the whole way. Also when I fly to the east coast and back, crossing the Rockies is usually the worst part of the flight.

~Aaron
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Biggles
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:23 am

Turbulence over mountains is not only caused by the Jetstream.It's caused by the effects of Mountain Wave . A strong jetstream can increase the effects. Here's a good explanation:

http://www.atsb.gov.au/public/facts/turbulence.cfm
 
Squigee
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:37 am

@Biggles,

Very true, but the wind has to be more than 70 km/h and roughly perpendicular to the mountain peak. In addition, these waves require the issuance of a SIGMET (Significant Meteorological Information bulletin from Environment Canada,) so pilots are generally well informed of these occurences and can make allowances for them.

Still, even though they are fairly rare, they can still be very dangerous and you are right to bring them up. I would say that light and moderate chop is a result of jetstream, and more severe turbulence would likely be the cause of these events.

BTW, us Canucks have a pretty good explaination of this, too!
http://www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca/education/aware/chapter_14_e.cfm
Someday, we'll look back at this, laugh nervously, and then change the subject.
 
airplaneboy
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Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:46 am

Being a DEN based FA, I will say that turbulence over the Rockies is quite common. It's more unusual to not have minor or moderate turbulence here. At times, it gets pretty rough and the captain will have us FA's remain seated past sterile until he gives us a call to begin our service. I have even had instances where the captain thought that it would be okay for us begin our service right after sterile only to come over the PA and announce for all of us to take our seats immediately. It's all in a day's work! 

Cheers!

AirplaneBoy

[Edited 2005-04-08 01:48:47]
 
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United_fan
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:23 am

I flew LAS-ORD on Ted Tuesday and there was some mild (to me) turbulence about an hour out of LAS . I've also seen it when the Captan will tell f/a's to be seated immediately,taking an open pax seat.
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UAL747
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 10:58 am

If any of you have EVER flown into Denver, you're in for a ride. Generally, turbulence over the rockies is an American norm. Light to moderate chop mostly, but annoying nonetheless. But, then there are days when everything is peaceful over the rockies, peaceful and beautiful. I've had several rides to the west coast that were easy on the ass. The absolute worst turbulence in the US mostly occurs east of Denver and The Rockies in the Spring/Summer time. Cumulonbus clouds galore. At least the Rockies are somewhat predictable.

UAL
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Brick
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 11:17 am

I dread those days that I am flying west out of Denver and there are really nice lenticular clouds hovering over the mountains. They are beautiful to look at...not fun to fly near at all.
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GoAllegheny
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:14 pm

The FAA has a nice turbulence report - here's a link to the "composite" image across all flight levels. The Rockies usually are at least light to moderate.

http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov/data/turbulence/00_gtg_max.gif
 
havaloc
Posts: 76
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Sat Apr 09, 2005 1:36 am

Don't forget the whole suite of Turbulence utilities at

http://weather.aero

There was some mountain wave reports on the appalachian mountains yesterday. (4/7)
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cubedweller
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Sat Apr 09, 2005 2:25 am

NCLAirport, I flew LHR-SFO on VS last week and we hit a good bit of chop coming over the Rockies in Idaho - the attendants were asked to sit down and we passed through some good bumps. BUT it only lasted about a minute and it was plain sailing the rest of the way. Nothing to worry about. Actually it was kinda funny, there must have been another a/c about 10 miles in front of us at a similar altitude who was relaying info to the other a/c in the area cos the seatbelt sign would come on about 30 seconds before we hit the turbulence.
 
KDTWflyer
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RE: Turbulence Over The Rockies

Sat Apr 09, 2005 5:40 am

Cool turbulence maps for the U.S here....

http://adds.aviationweather.gov/turbulence/
NW B744 B742 B753 B752 A333 A332 A320 A319 DC10 DC9 ARJ CRJ S340