Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Please Return to Your Seats...

I went out to Southern California and back yesterday and it was one of those days.... No, not one of those spectacularly beautiful, see-for-a-million-miles days without a ripple in the air. It was one with a lot of undercast, and worse...bumpy, bumpy, bumpy.

I know the passengers really dislike the bumps, and it is usually worse in the back than it is in the front. We have to keep the seat belt sign on, which inhibits stretch breaks and bathroom stops. But the bottom line is that a significant bump in an airplane will do far more than knock you down...it will slam you into the ceiling and drop you on the back of a seat. It could easily severely injure you or possibly even kill you! Granted...those sorts of events are few and far between, but they DO happen every year. So the seatbelt sign is there for a reason. I sure hope that anyone who reads this as a passenger will keep that in mind the next time they fly.

So what do we do about it? First, we slow down. We have a speed that will give us the best ride while protecting the airplane aerodynamically from stall or over-g in the event of a hard bump. On top of that, it is like driving over a bumpy road...slower is smoother. Secondly, we ask the air traffic controllers what they have heard from other planes in the area. Our dispatchers often have already alerted us to the turbulence and its respective altitudes, so we are really only crosschecking it with the most current information from the ATC folks. If they can tell us of a smooth altitude that we can take, then we will usually change altitudes when it is available. The problem though, is that smooth altitude might be too high for us given our weight, or it could be too low (increases our fuel burn to the point where we might have to divert). And thirdly, we will cool it off in the back to help people avoid airsickness.

Believe it or not...we really DO want to give you the best ride possible!!!

But sometimes...like yesterday...nothing works out. So we bumped along for hours on end. I don't want to think about how many sick-sacks were used....

P.S. Hint...when it's so bumpy that people are getting sick, alcohol usually makes things worse! So if you are one who imbibes when flying...keep that in mind!

1 comment:

Darya said...

Thanks Charley for all these explanations. It is very appropriate for our family given that we all just flew to and from Scotland via Amsterdam in the last two weeks so I read this to my children and dh and they were all saying "ohhh, now we know why". Maybe you could give some suggestions for ear pressure pain? Somehow, it seems that the smaller the plane, the more pain my dd and I had in our ears?
Blessings to you and your blogs