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Is Airplane Turbulence Dangerous?

The announcement of turbulence during a flight can send shivers down the spine of even the most seasoned travelers. It’s that unsettling reminder of our vulnerability while suspended thousands of feet above the ground, hurtling through the air at incredible speeds. Yet, despite the discomfort it may induce, turbulence is often misunderstood when it comes to its actual level of danger. For many, the fear stems from a lack of understanding about the physics of flight and the structural integrity of modern aircraft.

Patrick Smith, a pilot and author known for his expertise on aviation matters, reassures us that turbulence, even in its most severe form, does not pose a threat to the safety of the aircraft. As he explains on AskThePilot.com and in his book Cockpit Confidential, the wings of modern airplanes are designed to withstand extreme forces, and the likelihood of a plane crashing due to turbulence is virtually nonexistent. However, this does not diminish the fact that turbulence can still be a serious and uncomfortable experience for passengers.

When it comes to injuries caused by turbulence, the statistics tell an interesting story. Surprisingly, you are more likely to sustain an injury from pilot error or a mechanical malfunction than you are from turbulence itself. In recent years, advancements in aircraft design and technology have made airplanes more resilient to the effects of rough weather. Tests have shown that jet wings are capable of flexing up to 90 degrees, demonstrating the remarkable strength and durability of modern aircraft. While witnessing such extreme wing flexing may be disconcerting for passengers, it’s a testament to the engineering feats that ensure the safety of air travel.

Despite the enhanced safety measures, pilots are trained to prioritize passenger comfort and safety above all else. If turbulence becomes too severe to endure, pilots have the authority to divert from their planned flight path and make an early landing. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of passengers suffering injuries and underscores the airline industry’s commitment to passenger well-being.

For those who prefer to err on the side of caution, there are resources available to help assess the likelihood of encountering turbulence during a flight. Websites like Turbulence Forecast provide up-to-date information on expected turbulence levels, allowing travelers to make informed decisions before embarking on their journey. While turbulence may remain an unavoidable aspect of air travel, understanding its nature and the measures in place to mitigate its effects can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with flying.

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.