Get to know the facts of the phenomenon of turbulence with Jet Linx. If you’re a nervous flier, be sure to take a look at our fast facts at the end of the article to help prepare yourself for your next flight.
Knowing what causes turbulence can help passengers understand a potentially bumpy ride. “Turbulence is caused by eddies and currents in the air,” Mike Kopp, Jet Linx Director of Operations explained. “If we have a big high pressure area over a particular region, that’s stable air, but if it’s a low pressure system, that’s rising air and it’s unstable. If you go right through it, it’s bumpy and bouncy.”
Ari Sarmento, Jet Linx System Chief Pilot, explains turbulence by likening it to a favorite pastime. “You can understand turbulence by visualizing a boat. As the boat goes through water, it causes ripples, waves and eddies. Air is the same way,” he explained. “Air currents, weather patterns and even other planes can make the air rough and bumpy.”
It’s important to remember that while turbulence may be uncomfortable, Jet Linx pilots never fly in unsafe conditions. “Jet Linx flight crews never intentionally fly an aircraft into a situation that would be unsafe,” Kopp said. “Planning, communication and training help crew members provide the most comfortable flight on any given day.”
Advanced technologies help flight crews avoid turbulence whenever possible. “The most hazardous weather phenomena associated with flying including turbulence occur with convective activity, or thunderstorms. Thunderstorms and less severe areas of precipitation can be detected by radar,” Kopp explained. “Radar is a normal preflight planning tool used to allow crew members to plan their flights to avoid turbulence and weather hazards.
“In the Midwest, we see first-hand that areas of light or moderate rain can quickly develop into more severe weather situations. In addition to preflight planning required, all passenger-carrying aircraft are equipped with on-board thunderstorm detection equipment,” Kopp continued. “Additionally, technologies have been developed that allow crew members to obtain weather images from ground based sources using features like XM weather and on-board Wifi which extends the view of the flight crew beyond the limits of the on-board radar. En route, crew members maintain a listening watch with Air Traffic Control (ATC). Pilots along the same route at the same altitude warn followers of areas of turbulence. When those reports are severe, they are relayed through a number of ATC systems to ensure that anyone who could be affected is warned and rerouted.”
Even with extensive planning preflight, while en route, turbulence may still be invisible to pilots. “Occasionally turbulence occurs because of invisible forces working in the atmosphere,” Kopp said. “The turbulence caused outside of convective activity is typically not severe. Since the atmosphere is fluid and constantly changing, flight crews are equipped to handle different situations.”
“Pilots are taught to slow down when they encounter turbulence: we don’t want to fight the turbulence,” Sarmento said. “If turbulence is causing you to go up, you don’t want to push down hard on the controls: you want to try to slow down and ride it out to the other side.”
The next time you encounter turbulence, know that you’re not alone: it affects flights every day. “Each year, pilots report about 65,000 accounts of moderate turbulence and 5,500 accounts of severe turbulence,” Sarmento said. Kopp added, “It’s a part of any and all aviation pursuits. If we can’t avoid it, the operator behind us can’t, either.”
Turbulence at a glance
Generally, turbulence is harmless.
Turbulence is essentially just a “rough patch” caused by wind due to thunderstorms, the jet stream, proximity to mountains, and other factors, and is common on any flight.
What about clear air turbulence?
Clear air turbulence is the most difficult to predict, as it occurs in cloudless skies with clear visibility—so oncoming turbulence cannot be seen on weather radar.
Turbulence will not cause damage to the plane.
No matter how severe the turbulence is, the actual safety of the aircraft is rarely in question. Planes are designed to withstand these obstacles in flight.
Your pilots are trained to deal with turbulence.
To avoid turbulence, your flight crew carefully studies weather patterns, plans ahead, & chooses the best route before your flight. When unavoidable, they have the skills and resources needed to safely traverse the situation.