Many nervous flyers will be scared of turbulence. But, truth be told, turbulence is nothing to worry about. In fact, turbulence is a mere annoyance to us flight attendants as it always seems to start when we are trying to drink coffee or fill out paperwork!
What is Turbulence?
Flight attendants call turbulence ‘bumpy air’ as this seems the most simple explanation. If you compare flying to being on a boat, you’ll find many similarities. The water can be calm, and you get a smooth ride. But, if the wind becomes stronger the water will be moved around and the boat will move around with it.
When it comes to flying, it’s very much the same. Clear Air Turbulence normally occurs when we cross over a weather front (known as a jetstream). If you watch the weather forecast, you’ll see many weather fronts on the map.
As the weather front moves forward it ‘stirs up’ the air. So, in simple terms, the turbulence you feel is just a change in direction of the air we are flying through.
We may also experience turbulence over mountainous areas. As weather fronts pass over mountain terrain it can cause the air to act as a flowing river does when obstacles (such as a big rock) are in it’s path. This can cause turbulence. Common areas in Europe for this type of turbulence are the Alps, and some areas in Spain.
The most common cause of turbulence at lower altitudes during sunlight is called Convective Turbulence. As the sun warms the ground, hot air rises, which causes the air to become bumpy. This type of turbulence is normally felt during take-off and landing (usually more so during landing, as the approach requires you to stay at this altitude for longer). Landing in hot areas, such as Spain, in the summer can be quite bumpy – but it’s not dangerous. In fact, be happy that it’s nice and hot outside, and you are going to be lying on the beach very soon!!
The most important thing you need to know, is that turbulence is not dangerous. We do suggest that you always keep your seatbelt fastened when seated though.
Those of you that are scared of turbulence, are concerned that it can cause damage to the aircraft. This will NEVER happen. The aircraft is designed to withstand much more than we will EVER encounter. The pilots will – usually – not even take the plane off the autopilot, as the aircraft is perfectly capable of handling itself during turbulence.
The aircraft is NOT going to drop out of the sky. There are no such things as air pockets that an aircraft can fall into. There is always air to support us. Our natural fear instinct is designed to feel the sensation of falling downwards. With every ‘down bump’, there is an ‘up bump’ to compensate for it. Similar to driving a car over a bump, it doesn’t take a very big bump to move us around quite a bit. In truth, the altimeter (the instrument that registers our altitude) will hardly even register turbulence – we really don’t move around as much as it sometimes feels we are.
There will be much more to come on the subject of turbulence in future weeks – as it’s many people’s fear. Rest assured though, turbulence is not a danger to the aircraft, and will never cause the aircraft to fall out of the sky.