[I]t was just another workday in the clouds for me. On a predictably full flight from Boston to San Francisco, my fellow flight attendants and I were in the middle of delivering service to our passengers.
We were getting some ‘light chop’, (which is what we call turbulence in the airline industry).
However, it didn’t interrupt us from performing our first service.
And then we heard the announcement from the Captain over the PA system.
Flight Attendants, Take Your Seats
We all knew what that abrupt PA meant.
It was going to get even bumpier, any second now.
The four of us, stumbling around like drunken sailors down the aisle returned to our respective jump seats.
I tried to secure as many loose objects sitting on the galley counter as quickly as I could before sitting down and buckling up.
With this unanticipated break, we would just have to wait it out until we got a call from the captain letting us know it was OK to resume service.
Oh well, an unexpected break to sit with my fellow flight attendants and catch up on some jump seat gossip. 🙂
The Shocking Truth About Turbulence
What exactly causes this phenomena that strikes FEAR into the hearts of sky high travelers everywhere?
Clear air turbulence is air movement created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms
This is the stuff that grips anxious fliers at their core.
Bumpy flights are usually the number one cause of concern of nervous fliers.
Call it a rough ride, a bumpy ride or moderate to heavy chop.
Whatever your pet name for clear air turbulence is, it can be unpleasant.
Usually undetected, it’s unpredictable and can strike an aircraft without any warning.
It can appear out of nowhere even when the sky appears to be clear.
Turbulence is usually more of an annoyance than a danger to you or the aircraft.
As a seasoned flight attendant, I now have the utmost respect for turbulence.
I injured my shoulder during heavy turbulence when I fell on my back in the galley.
It tossed me around the galley floor like a rag doll.
I can usually tell when the aircraft is flying over the Rocky Mountains because the plane starts its little dance of ‘shake, rattle and roll’.
I can empathize with passengers, especially those who are fearful flyers.
WHO CAN BLAME THEM?
There’s no denying that powerful turbulence can result in injuries.
4 Misconceptions About Turbulence
1. My plane will fall out of the sky and crash.
I know this may be the biggest fear running through your mind. Depending on the severity, it can feel like you’re riding a roller coaster.
Falling from the sky should be the least of your worries during turbulence.
2. My plane will flip upside down due to air pockets.
This is highly unlikely. In aviation history, there are no reports of a plane being flipped upside down IN THE AIR due to turbulence.
3. The wings will fall off my plane.
An airplane is built to be very EXTREMELY durable. You have a better chance at winning the mega lottery than the wings falling off IN THE AIR.
4. My plane will go into a tail spin and crash.
Sorry to disappoint you. There won’t be any tail spins no matter how many Hollywood airplane movies you’ve watched about turbulence bringing down a plane.
4 Annoying Side Effects From Turbulence
1. It can make you barf.
This usually causes a chain reaction in the cabin.
And guess who gets the honor of cleaning it up. Oh where, oh where is that glamour?
2. You can spill your beverage or your meal.
This may cause you to spend the remainder of your flight in wet or soiled clothes, especially since the preferred area for spills is your LAP!
3. You can get bruised.
If you are in the aisle waiting to use lav and trying not to feel self-conscious while just standing there, you may end up getting injured.
If you think it’s getting a bit bumpy, think twice before getting up.
Grab a seat. Any seat. Even on the floor or another passenger’s lap. This is what we’re trained to do. 🙂 Awkward….
I have airplane tattoos (black and blue marks) from bumping into armrests, beverage carts and lav doors during turbulence.
4. Your flight may be delayed.
Turbulence has the potential to delay your flight up to an hour or more.
This is because your pilots are looking for a different altitude which may take the plane slightly off course to offer a more comfortable experience.
How to Take Charge of Turbulence
There are a few tactics that you can use to stay safe during this time.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE SEAT BELT SIGN
Pilots always buckle their seat belt the entire flight.
The only time they remove it is when they exit the flight deck for a bio break.
Once back in the cockpit, they will buckle up before the other pilot gets up to take his break.
American carriers may seem to be a bit overprotective with the seat belt sign, due to the FAA (the government body that regulates air travel) breathing down their necks.
If you want to arrive at your destination injury-free, keep your seat belt buckled at all times.
Try watching a program on your TV screen, or a DVD. Perhaps strike up a conversation with a fellow seat mate.
Distraction truly helps. Most of the time, turbulence doesn’t last more than a few minutes.
Captain Sully Sullenberger from the famed US Airways ‘Miracle on the Hudson landing’ had this to say about putting turbulence in perspective.
If you think about how bumpy even the average car ride is, it’s much more turbulent than the average flight
The big difference is, you’re on the ground and not hurdling through the skies at 35,000 miles an hour encapsulated in a steel tube.
Plus you can always pull over when you’re driving 🙂
It is impossible to get your plane to pull over at the next cloud so you can get off.
The smoothest ride is usually over the wing, although you may not always be able to sit there.
Your Crew is Well Trained
Just like ‘Allstate’, you’re in good hands.
Your pilots go through annual training using state of the art simulators.
They will handle just about any situation that may crop up during your flight inside the simulator.
Your cabin crew also attends recurrent training.
This is a yearly event where we actually get to ‘play’ on the training simulators.
Popping the door slides is actually encouraged and not frowned upon while evacuating the ‘pretend’ aircraft.
Although the public’s perception of flight attendants’ jobs are is usually erroneous, safety is their core job priority.
All the services and amenities they provide onboard is simply a way for the airline to differentiate their brand and remain competitive with other airlines.
Where Did It Go?
And just like that, turbulence dissipates.
Depending of the severity of the turbulence, the cabin may be a mess.
I guess it’s time to clean up the galley and count down the hours before we land in San Francisco, my favorite city by the way.
I can hear the Golden Gate bridge calling my name.
When it’s all said and done, flying is STILL the safest way to travel.
The most dangerous part of my job as a flight attendant is my round trip commute from Hartford to Boston to begin and end my ‘fly day’.