Your Thanksgiving Day flight may experience turbulence. Here’s the forecast.

Your Thanksgiving Day flight may experience turbulence. Here’s the forecast.

Turbulence can make even the most frequent flyer a little nervous or anxious. And with nearly 240,000 flights expected over the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, at least a few will encounter stormy air.

“It almost always starts to get bumpy as soon as we turn off the seat belt sign,” he joked Morgan Smitha Boeing 737 pilot. “But frankly, almost everything about turbulence is annoying and not dangerous.”

Fortunately, the start of the Thanksgiving weekend isn’t expected to be particularly bumpy. “There’s nothing extreme about the jet stream,” said Alec Mead, an Alaska Airlines dispatcher. “Friday alone could have thunderstorms along the Gulf Coast around Houston and Memphis that could affect turbulence.”

To help pilots find “smooth air,” researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research developed predictive model which takes a meteorological measurement of atmospheric turbulence called eddy wave dissipation rate and forecasts it over an 18-hour period.

The forecast at the top of this article shows the maximum turbulence predicted for all altitudes where commercial aircraft fly – so an area shown as forecasting moderate turbulence may include altitudes with calmer air. Pilots can use tablets in the cockpit to see more specific forecasts showing which areas of turbulence exist at what altitudes, helping them navigate above, below or around those areas.

“It’s not an exact science,” Ms Smith said. “But it helps us plan for in-flight turbulence — such as having flight attendants delay service until we’re through an area or alerting passengers to possible turbulence during the welcome-on-board announcement.”

Airline controllers like Mr. Mead draw up flight plans hours in advance, using software with dozens of weather data and air traffic sources to try to avoid areas prone to turbulence. During flight, dispatchers communicate continuously with pilots and guide them through unexpected bumps. “These models work well, they are a valuable tool in our pocket. They allow us to see the big picture, where everything is going to be,” he said.

Aircraft also have sensors that measure the G-forces exerted on the aircraft during flight and automatically submit reports. These reports are added to a database that other air traffic controllers monitor. If turbulence begins to appear in an area, then other aircraft coming along the same route may begin to avoid it.

What is turbulence?

“To put it simply, turbulence is basically disrupted air flow,” Ms Smith said. “When the air changes direction or speed, we get some bumps.”

She compared it to being on a boat on the water.

“As the water moves, so moves the boat,” she said. “Like water, air is fluid and has the same effect on an aircraft.”

Turbulence levels

Passengers may feel slight tension against the seat belts or shoulder straps. Loose objects may shift slightly. Eating can still be done and walking can be done with little or no difficulty.

Passengers feel a certain tension against the seat belts or shoulder straps. Unfastened objects shift. Food service and walking are difficult.

Passengers are pressed hard against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are thrown. Food service and walking are impossible.

The plane pitches violently and is virtually impossible to control. May cause structural damage.

Most people experience only the lowest levels of turbulence, “mild” and “moderate,” according to a review of pilot reports.

“I’ve never experienced any serious turbulence,” Ms Smith said. “It’s pretty rare and a lot of pilots I know either haven’t experienced it or only experienced it once or twice in their entire career.”

Turbulence almost always feels worse than it is, and even official reports can be quite subjective.

“What some passengers described to me as severe turbulence where they thought we had dropped thousands of feet was really more moderate with maybe 10 feet of altitude change and a few knots of airspeed change,” Ms Smith said .

However, unexpected turbulence occurs and injuries do occur from time to time.

According to data from National Transportation Safety Board. So far in 2022, there have been eight episodes where someone has been seriously injured.

Tips for travel turbulence

“The only thing people have to fear from turbulence is potentially spilling their drink in flight,” Ms Smith said. “Most injuries from turbulence come from people not being seated or wearing their seat belts when it gets rough. So fasten your seat belt and don’t leave your drink on your laptop!”

She has others tips for nervous flyers, including sitting near the front where the ride is smoother, and flying in the morning. As the day warms into the afternoon, heat rising from land increases the chance for turbulence near the ground and turbulence caused by storms. She also has advice for younger travelers who may be apprehensive and haven’t chosen their career yet.

“It’s almost always better to ride in the cockpit than the rest of the plane,” Ms Smith said. “So if you don’t like the feeling of turbulence, become a pilot!”

#Thanksgiving #Day #flight #experience #turbulence #Heres #forecast

Related Articles

Back to top button