• Twitter icon
  • Facebook icon
  • Youtube icon
  • Instagram icon
  • Snapchat icon

Is Airplane Turbulence Dangerous?

‘We’re expecting some turbulence, please fasten your seatbelts and remain seated.’ This is, for me at least, the last thing I want to hear while sitting thousands of feet in the air and traveling hundreds of miles per hour. Turbulence is one of those things that can take a simple air flight and turn it into an unforgettable experience. But how dangerous is it, really? Does turbulence mean the plane has a potential to crash? According to Patrick Smith, a pilot who runs AskThePilot.com and is the author of Cockpit Confidential, that answer is no. “Even in extreme rough air, the wing is not going to break off and the plane is not going to flip upside-down.” However, we all know that turbulence can be serious, and when Mother Nature does come knocking at the door there is very little anyone can do about it. So how many people actually get injured by turbulence?

You are more likely to suffer an injury from pilot error or a malfunction than you will of turbulence. It is actually quite rare nowadays for an airplane to suffer from damages because of rough weather. Planes are now being made more resilient with some tests showing jet wings flexing up to 90 degrees. That’s some major improvement. Although that’s one sight I’d rather not see. It’s more likely for a pilot to divert from the flight path and land early if the turbulence is too much to withstand, rather than remain on course and have passengers risk suffering an injury. But if you like to play it safe and would rather not take the risk, visit Turbulence Forecast to check the forecast before your next flight.

How Many People Get Injured?

The only data that airlines make public is the data they must report to the National Transportation Security Board. They only report turbulence-related incidents if a passenger suffers a serious injury or death. That is: If a passenger dies within 30 days of an accident, or any hospitalization lasting more than 48 hours. Also, hefty injuries, including bone fractures, severe hemorrhages, severe nerve or muscle damage, second or third-degree burns covering more than five percent of the body, and damage to any internal organ. Which means there are perhaps a number of minor cases that go undocumented.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that in 2013, 24 passengers were hurt during turbulence in the U.S. Two-thirds of which were flight attendants. Here is a chart provided by the FAA on how many people reportedly suffered injuries between 2002 and 2013.

Year Passenger Crew Total
2002 45 16 61
2003 16 32 48
2004 6 29 35
2005 7 15 22
2006 5 10 15
2007 2 10 12
2008 4 8 12
2009 53 22 75
2010 51 25 76
2011 3 15 18
2012 11 21 32
2013 11 13 24


How Can You Avoid Injuries

Traveling by airplane is considered the safest way to travel. To ensure you are secure and doing what you can to prevent injuries from occurring, follow these tips from the FAA to stay safe:

pay-attention-iconListen to the flight attendants. Pay attention to the safety briefing at the beginning of your flight and read the safety briefing card.


seatbelt-iconBuckle up. Keep you and your family safe by wearing a seat belt at all times.



child-iconUse an approved child safety seat or device if your child is under two.



carry-on-bag-iconPrevent inflight injuries by adhering to your airline’s carry-on restrictions.



How do Airlines Prevent Injuries and Avoid Turbulence

There are countless ways in which airlines prevent injuries and fatalities from occurring. Guidance material has been created by the FAA working together with the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) to focus on avoiding conditions that cause turbulence and how to minimize the risk if they ever do encounter it. The FAA recommends air carriers to:

  • Improve dispatch procedures by keeping communication channels open full-time;
  • Include turbulence in weather briefings;
  • Promote real-time information sharing between pilot and dispatcher;
  • Reinforce the air carrier’s turbulence avoidance policy through dispatcher training;
  • Consider rerouting using automation, atmospheric modeling, and data displays; and
  • Use all applicable weather data as well as reporting and forecasting graphics

At Herrman & Herrman, if you have been injured due to the negligence of another, please contact our office at 361-792-2358 for a free consultation. Or feel free to stop by our office located at 1201 Third St., Corpus Christi, Texas. Our dedicated staff and experienced attorneys can help you get back on your feet and get the compensation you deserve.