Most of us do not enjoy mid air turbulence on our flights. Many times, it is predictable, like flying over mountain ranges (Denver) or hot deserts (like Vegas). But most troubling are the unexpected episodes where the seat belt light goes on, AND the flight attendants are told to take their seats!
So, short of taking a fast acting tranquilizer, and chugging another shot of bourbon, what can you do?
First, did you know that over 20 million people suffer from aviophobia or fear of flying? Add to that, take off, landing, noise, and bumps take their toll on many others, me included. Severe turbulence often sends people to the hospital. I have been nauseated from the turbulence twice in my life, returning from Washington, DC in a storm, and flying to Rio from Miami. Experts predict air turbulence could be worse by 149% due to global warning!
That begs the question, what can we do about it? One expert says to grab a pen and paper (easier said than done), and write your name over and over, preferably with your non-dominant hand.
As expected using the non dominant hand to write takes your focus away from your current situation, and forces you to change your normal thinking patterns. You will tend to focus on making your name legible, rather than worry about the shaking and bumping of your flight.
Another trick is to drink through a straw. But who has a straw handy? And who has something to drink at precisely the right moment? Supposedly, this prevents hyperventilating.
Flight experts say it is almost impossible to flip a plane upside down or get thrown into a tailspin. Pilots see it purely as a convenience issue, not a safety issue. Planes are engineered to take extreme punishment.
The FAA defines turbulence: Clear air turbulence is air movement created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms. It can be unexpected and can happen when the sky appears to be clear.
That said, there were only 33 passenger injuries from turbulence in 2016, and only 11 crew injuries. In 2009, the largest number of injuries occurred, with 80 passenger and 26 crew, for a total of 106 injuries. Since 1980, only six injuries have been fatal.
Bottom line: I don’t think turbulence is a good reason to stop flying. I can think of other reasons, like traveler’s anxiety, panic attacks, claustrophobia, or agoraphobia. Unless you have these, I say keep on flying!