Over the years I have had my fair share of turbulence during flights. Probably the worst experience was on a domestic Indonesian flight between Mataram and Denpasar in the mid-1990’s on an old Sempati plane. On that eventful short flight suddenly a flight attendant ran out of the cockpit to the back and not a second later the plane made a dive of what seemed to be at least several hundred meters. I thought my final hour had come, but the pilot got the plane under control again and without saying a word to the passengers landed it on Bali. I vowed never to fly Sempati again, which was an easy one to keep because they went bankrupt in 1998 after having lost several of their planes in crashes.
Yesterday night I had another turbulence experience, which was not as bad as Sempati but certainly not fun. A couple of minutes after taking off from Phuket I decided to go to the toilet. I locked the door behind me and at that very moment the plane unexpectedly hit heavy turbulence. I was thrown off my feet and hit my shoulder on the wall before I could grab the water tap with one hand and the water basin with my other. My legs hit the door and for a moment I thought it would fly out, but that didn’t happen.
At the same time the flight attendants were almost screaming through the intercom to the passengers to put on their seat belts. But that was not necessary anymore, because after 20 seconds or so the plane was totally stable again. When I came out of the wash room 2 flight attendants were waiting for me, they thought I had injured myself (it probably sounded like that when I hit the wall and then the door, they were in the kitchen next to me when it happened), but I assured them I was totally fine. I was glad I had not gone to the toilet a minute earlier though!
That's a positively harrowing story. I know of few people in my inner circle who would be willing to get back into the air after that terrifying over-Bali flight.
Doesn't the slightest shake to the fuselage get your goat up? I mean, how can you tolerate those massive trans-Asia, trans-Pacific flights?
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Wow, that's scary… You know, I think no matter how much you fly, whenever you hit some serious turbulence, it's hard to get used to it and stay cool! There's also the whole idea that YOU're not the one in control too, you just gotta trust the pilot, the plane, the weather… it's a lot of external factors that you have to trust all at the same time and on short notice… 😉
Those planes are pretty durable. Occasionally they do full scale stress tests on the wings at Boeing. The wings aren't actually destroyed until the tips are well above the top portion of the fuselage. I'd hate to see what kind of flight conditions would produce that much force on the wings.
My worst turbulence moment was coming into Beijing over the Great Wall on a hot, smoggy day. Passengers all around me were throwing up.