What is turbulence? Is turbulence dangerous for commercial airliners?
Is turbulence dangerous? Can turbulence crash a plane?
Turbulence is probably the single most common cause of anxiety for airline passengers, yet it rarely causes the pilots any concerns about the safety of the aircraft. In all but the most extreme cases, turbulence is not a danger to the safety of the flight, rather more of an uncomfortable inconvience.
There are a number of different types of turbulence, some of which can be detected by most commercial aircraft, whilst other types are invisable.
Turbulence comprises of the following types:
- Convective turbulence (commonly experienced when flying through cloud)
- Clear Air Turbulence (caused by jet streams which are very strong corridors of wind found at high altitudes)
- Low level thermals (hot air rising from the ground which is prevellent on hot days)
- Wake turbulence (this is not weather related, rather a phenominom caused by other aircraft)
Can Pilots Detect Turbulence?
Pilots can detect certain types of turbulence using an onboard weather radar. The radar highlights where there are large quantities of water droplets (rain) on the pilot’s instruments. Generally speaking the bigger the rain drops, the bigger the cloud, and the more turbulent it will be inside that cloud. The pilots make a judgement on if they can fly through the cloud or avoid it by flying around it.