Home News ‘A sharp drop’: What deadly turbulence is doing to flights

‘A sharp drop’: What deadly turbulence is doing to flights


The seat belt signal came on shortly after the plane started shaking, but for some, it was too late.

“Those who were not wearing seat belts were thrown into the air right inside the cabin,” said Dzafran Azmir, one of the 211 people on board Tuesday’s deadly turbulence from London to Singapore. One of the passengers. “In a split second, they hit the cabin ceiling and then fell back to the floor.”

The Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft took off from London Heathrow Airport on Monday evening (about 10 hours ago). It’s about three-quarters full. Many of the visitors are returning Singaporeans. Some of them are students studying in the UK. Others are families, and some are planning a “vacation of a lifetime” to far-flung destinations such as Australia.

The 13-hour journey on SQ321 has come to an end and many passengers have finished their last meal on board, which today consists of a cream cheese omelette or stir-fried Asian noodles, both with a side of fresh fruit.

At this time, the plane had arrived in the Bay of Bengal, located between the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Some pilots consider the area “notorious” This is the time of year when monsoon rains cause turbulence.

But commercial pilots know how to deal with such situations. They rely on weather radar and carry extra fuel so they can fly if necessary and wait for the weather to improve. Or they follow routes charted by other aircraft that have recently flown through the area and warn air traffic controllers of changing weather.

But one situation you cannot be prepared for is when the sky is clear and the plane’s radar detects nothing unusual. This phenomenon is called clear air turbulence.

“Maybe the plane just started shaking and we turned on the seatbelt sign but before we knew it, we were stuck in the clear air turbulence area,” said Captain Teerawat Angkasakulkiat, president of the Thai Pilots Association. “It was totally unpredictable.”

It’s unclear what happened next to SQ321, but there were thunderstorms near its flight path. The plane was flying over Myanmar, cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet above the southern stretch of the country’s largest river, the Ayeyarwady River, when it encountered what the airline later described as “sudden extreme turbulence.”

Dzafran, a 28-year-old college student who was sitting in a window seat in row 52 as he prepared to return home to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said the plane shook violently for the next three to five minutes.

“Then the feeling got stronger and stronger, like a roller coaster, going to the top and then suddenly going down,” he recalled.

His bag was placed under the seat in front of him and it flew to the other side of the plane, and his phone flew to the other side of the aisle. The woman sitting in the front row of Dzafran hit her head on the plastic seat belt sign above her head, causing her head to bleed. The oxygen mask fell from the overhead panel. The person behind him bumped into the seat. Dzafran was unharmed, but the other two passengers had blood marks on their heads.

At least one passenger reacted quickly and fastened his seat belt. She is a woman sitting behind Dzafran.

“She was just lucky that she responded so quickly,” he said.

Another sleeping passenger, Teandra Tukhunen, was less quick to react. Australian Tukhunen, 30, told Sky News she was woken by turbulence and saw the seatbelt light come on, but before she could fasten it she was thrown to the ceiling and then to the floor. In a Bangkok hospital, her arm was in a sling.

Elsewhere on the plane, people began crying and screaming in pain. The whippings were so violent that one passenger said people walking around the plane seemed to be doing somersaults. Dozens of people, including some crew members, were injured.

As things settled down, it became clear that one of the passengers most affected was male traveler Geoff Kitchen. Mr Kitchen, a 73-year-old grandfather of two who runs a local theater group in the southwestern England town of Thornbury, had planned the six-week trip. “The vacation of a lifetime” Traveled to Australia and Southeast Asia with his wife of 50 years, Linda.

Andrew Davies, who was sitting in front of Mr Kitchen, lifted him from his seat, laid him on the floor and performed CPR for at least 20 minutes.

As the plane was currently in Thai airspace, the pilot sent a distress signal to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and requested an emergency landing. He then announced the new destination mid-flight and asked for people with medical training to help injured passengers.

Mr Zafran said the plane landed 45 minutes after the ordeal began. It was 3:45 pm local time.

Multiple ambulances with flashing lights were on standby at the scene. Passengers waited patiently while nurses, first responders and doctors rushed to rescue the seriously injured. A total of 83 people were injured, 20 of whom were sent to local hospital intensive care units.

Drew Kessler, Rotary International’s New York-based treasurer, was on his way to Singapore for the annual Rotary International convention. He said he suffered a broken neck and his wife Vicki broke her back.

As Zafran prepared to disembark, crew members told passengers to avoid one of the aisles. Mr Zaffran said he thought he saw someone lying on the floor. Flight attendants near the business and first class cabins were bleeding. Food was scattered around the kitchen.

Bewildered, the passengers boarded a bus from the tarmac and arrived at the waiting area at Bangkok Airport. Everyone was talking about it. A fellow passenger told Zafran that someone had died on the plane and showed Zafran an online news article. It’s Mr. Kitchen. He was the only fatality and one of the few blamed on turbulence, and his cause of death has not yet been announced.

Singapore Airlines has apologised for the incident and its investigators have arrived in Bangkok to try to understand what happened.

Zafran was one of the 143 passengers who survived. His seat was also in the same cabin, and he said she was also wearing her seat belt.

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