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Can turbulence cause a plane to crash or fall out of the sky?

In a previous blog post, we discussed how turbulence can lead to accidents and injuries in the air. If you recall, we discussed how one of the issues that pilots face while they are in the air is trying to avoid severe turbulence that might lead to passenger injuries. Still, many passengers are afraid of turbulence because it seems so scary. Learning a bit about turbulence might help some flyers to feel a bit better.

Can turbulence disable a plane or cause a crash?

Except for in rare cases, turbulence won't disable a plane or cause it to crash. Planes are manufactured to take a beating while they are in the air. They are designed and tested to ensure they meet certain specifications about the G-loads, positive and negative, that they can operate under. Having turbulence that is severe enough to disable an engine or even bend a wing isn't something that the overwhelming majority of people will experience.

Does the plane lose altitude or position in the air during turbulence?

Generally, the plane remains stable during turbulence. Even in severe turbulence, a plane isn't likely to lose or gain significant altitude. Movies that show planes losing thousands of feet in altitude during a spurt of turbulence aren't accurate.

Pilots will usually try to keep the turbulence that passengers experience to a minimum, but it will still happen in some cases. If the turbulence is causing things in the cabin to shift, there is a chance of injury. In those cases, passengers who are injured during turbulence need to speak up so they can get the care they need. When they land, those injured passengers might choose to seek compensation if the situation meets certain requirements.

Source: Ask the Pilot, "Turbulence: Everything You Need to Know," accessed Feb. 05, 2016

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