Summer vacation: Why you shouldn’t fear airplane turbulence

The drop was so severe, Tequesta resident Jennifer McGrath was thrust forward, bent in half at her seatbelt, and struck numb by the feeling that the plane she was in was suddenly falling out of the sky.

Just a few seconds earlier, the 47-year-old mother of two had been reassuring her friend that the bumpy flight from Fort Lauderdale to Asheville, N.C., was nothing to worry about. Then the overhead bins exploded with the violence of the plummet, hurtling luggage to the front of the plane.

“Initially we screamed,” McGrath said in a 2015 interview with The Palm Beach Post. “Then we started praying out loud.”

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Turbulence is the bane of many fliers, and as the summer travel season kicks into high gear more than a few will experience the gut punch of an unexpected altitude dip.

Weather is the main cause of a rough ride, and South Florida’s volatile rainy season can produce some of the biggest potholes in the sky.

But pilots say fear not the jolts and jostles, they’re nothing to planes designed to withstand Mother Nature’s tantrums. And, there are usually ways to avoid the weather that causes the most aggressive turbulence, such as flying around thunderstorms or changing elevation.

“Very rarely do we ever encounter severe turbulence, but people think that light turbulence is severe and it scares them,” said Palm Beach State College Professor Judy Maxwell, who heads the school’s Aeronautical Science Program. “If you hit a bump in the road, you wouldn’t be scared. It’s kind of the same thing in the air.”

There are three main types of turbulence.

Read what those are in this story from The Palm Beach Post. 

Douglas Carbone, 44, a student in the helicopter track of the aeronautical science program, during a flight simulator training session at Palm Beach State College June 09, 2015, in Lake Worth. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

Douglas Carbone, 44, a student in the helicopter track of the aeronautical science program, during a flight simulator training session at Palm Beach State College June 09, 2015, in Lake Worth. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

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