Experienced Pilot Shares What Extreme Turbulence Feels Like and How to Tackle It

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Senior commercial pilot with 40 years of experience Martin Chalk takes apart severe turbulence, which can be encountered by aircraft, and how it should be dealt with.

Strong atmospheric disturbances are termed as extreme turbulence, and a recent case is about a Boeing 777-300ER by the Singapore Airlines from London to Singapore. Dozens of people have suffered from injuries, and one even died because of these conditions. Even though it may be very scary for the passengers, such extreme turbulence is just a part of daily routine for pilots and crew.

A pilot by profession, born in Scotland and experienced in flying Air Force planes, he gives an engaging account of his chances of managing this age-old natural phenomenon. He is firm in his belief that turbulence is an inconvenience that can be managed based on prior training and the techniques and norms followed.

The materials on which these aircraft are built are supposed to bear extreme impacts; therefore, the plane is not supposed to break easily under stressful conditions if it encounters turbulence or is landing. Chalk observed that pilots and crew are well trained to adapt to turbulence, including that which is quite impossible to anticipate. Pilots use weather radar to locate storm clouds that cause turbulence.

In the UK and the surrounding regions, by far the most common type of turbulence is that caused by the formation of drops within in-cloud air circulation; storm clouds can be very violent with which to navigate. Even if these clouds are invisible to the naked eye, they can be discerned on radar, warning pilots to avoid regions where the updraft and downdraft are strong. This makes it relatively easy to avoid such turbulence. Weather radar services also bring out forecasts that enable aircraft pilots to avoid regions that are likely to have very severe turbulence. Forecasts, which show major turbulence, normally lead to pilots trying to avoid such regions altogether by all means. For light or moderate turbulence, general indications show that pilots only turn on the seatbelt signs prior to the entry into the turbulent area.

Chalk also explains how clear air turbulence can make flights dramatically bumpy. This happens most often, though, when a plane flies through the border of two adjacent up- and downdraft air masses in the atmosphere, and especially in warmer conditions.

Always, the first priority is the safety of passengers while in flight. If violent enough, it can injure people by flinging them against the interior of the aircraft, or they can be struck by an object that becomes airborne because of the turbulence.

In a nutshell, the main two objectives of turbulence avoidance are the prevention of passengers from being thrown through the cabin and protection of passengers from impacting with loose objects. Aided by the correct training and tools, pilots, such as Martin Chalk, surmount these challenges with a view to ensuring the safety and comfort of every passenger on board; that such a flight is a pleasurable experience.

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