Large planes can handle turbulence, but flights are set to get bumpier

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Climate change is set to lead to more bumpy flights.

The damaged interior of Singapore Airlines' Flight SQ321 after the plane made an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on May 21.what happened aboard Singapore Airlines’ Flight SQ321

Still, the US National Transportation Safety Board has recorded more than 100 injuries and dozens of deaths over the past decades on US domestic flights. But these fatalities occurred when extreme turbulence resulted in small planes crashing. No commercial aircraft is known to have crashed purely as a result of turbulence.

The fatality on this Singapore Airlines flight was caused by a heart attack. While the impact of this tragic death and the injuries to 30 others cannot be minimised, the fact remains that the plane not only managed to recover from a massive and unexpected 6,000 feet dive within minutes, but also glided into the nearest available airport soon after, albeit with its cabin seemingly torn apart. A small plane might not have survived the ordeal.

This is clear air turbulence or CAT, which is caused by air pockets in clear sky and good weather. They can happen with no warning. And they can cause the worst kind of extreme turbulence, not detectable by current technology. Investigations will show whether CAT had anything to do with what happened during the SQ321 flight.


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