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  • Flights getting more turbulent?

    I've always hated flying, and it has definitely limited my traveling, but hasn't prevented me from going where I need to go. I've been traveling pretty frequently for all my life and have always been bothered by turbulence, but have noticed that in the past 2 years (aprox), my flights have been noticeably more turbulent. In the past I recall that the turbulence accounted for a very small amount of the overall flight, maybe under 10%. But these days, it's very rare that I'm on a flight that is not turbulent over 80% of the flight. I remember in the past I used to be able to relax, even sleep on some flight, but now I can't sit still and have to stare out the window the whole time because the plane is shaking practically the entire flight.

    Have others noticed this too? I've been wondering if this could be due to a shift in our weather? Or if pilots are taking more direct routes and not avoiding turbulence as much any more in an effort to save gas and cut costs? I've also heard that some airlines are flying slower to save gas, so I'm guessing that maybe this forces them to fly lower, in more turbulent air? Does anyone know if any/all of these are true? I know I'm not imagining things, I never remember flying to be as turbulent as it has been in the last couple years.

  • #2
    I think climate change has alot to do with it! Forget turbulence, storms are getting worse and shifting seasons..they had snow and cold fronts well into may this year in the US. Snow in London, heat waves killing the elederly in France, worse hurricanes, more frequent FJ4 tornadoes. No matter what you belive the cause is, it's happening.

    I fly twice a week. More often than not, it's at least light to moderate turbulence. Smooth flights are noticable becasue they are more rare these days. I agree, 20 years ago turbulence was the exception, not the rule.

    And to save money, aircraft fly at HIGHER altitudes now...less air resistance means greater efficiency in the sweet spot somewhere around 38,000 but they go slower with reduced thrust as a result. And what's even more noteable is that those altitudes should be ABOVE most of the weather but this is not the case much anymore. I flew from KMCI to PHX a few weeks ago at 39,000 in clouds the whole time in a blizzard front that dumped snow in denver and flooded Oklahoma. As late as the mid 90's, the standard cruise was 30 to 35 thousand feet and we were using the same aircraft then as we do now. During the 80s there were older 727's, tri-stars and DC 10's that perform better under 30 thousand and I remember 28 thousand being the standard for continental flights with way less bumps.

    On a personal note, you would think I would get used to turbulence due to having to experience it all the time. The opposite is true..it's actually bugging me more and I am increasingly prone to airsickness.

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    • #3
      I fly twice a month, transatlantic, and I totally agree with both of you. Turbulence is worse now! in the 1980s I was still a fearful flier, but I remember smooth flights, seat -belt -signs on sporadically or never. Now? On a regular flight JFK-Milan seat belts signs are on all the way to Halifax, then maybe a little off, and then again, nearing the coast of ireland...bumpy bumpy bumpy.I have NEVER got used to turbulence, I hate it and I am worse now than ever. Add night and over-the ocean factor...and i'm a wreck! in my next life I want to be a non fearful flier-the ones that actually sleep!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by sgambaccini View Post
        Add night and over-the ocean factor...and i'm a wreck! in my next life I want to be a non fearful flier-the ones that actually sleep!
        There are few things that make me feel more scared and helpless than being way out over the middle of the ocean at night experiencing turbulence. What happened to the Air France jet the other day is my nightmare scenario.

        Once while flying from Venice, Italy to Atlanta on a Delta 767, we hit some turbulence over the N. Atlantic. It was day time. There was cloud cover below but there were small breaks in the clouds where you could see down to the ocean floor from cruising altitude and I saw lots of white caps on the ocean surface. So when it's daylight and I start seeing white caps way down below, I know some turbulence must be coming up ahead. After a long ocean crossing, nothing feels more re-assuring than seeing some land coming up on the horizon.

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        • #5
          you might find this article interesting
          http://genevalunch.com/2009/06/02/ai...ondition-data/
          it speaks about this system that many Airline have (but NOT Airfrance) where planes can actually report turbulence and communicate to other planes.
          I checked: Delta, American, United, Continental...all have it.
          about that Venice-Atlanta flight, I took it a few weeks ago. I actually loved it...and a few day-time bumps don't bother me (and nothing beats taking off in Venice!)

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          • #6
            Taking off from Venice is nice when you get the view of the alps..but from what I remember everything is slow at Venice...the baggage system and ground crews in particular. I have never gotten out of there without a delay!

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            • #7
              It's worse.

              I agree. Flying is worse now than ever.

              I officially quit flying. I last flew jetBlue in October from Tampa to JFK through a lightning storm, and it was scary. I booked a few more flights, but turned back at the aircraft entrance, or simply left the airport, and drove between NY and Florida. So it's safe to say I'll never fly again.

              Even worse is when you're in a holding pattern. That's another reason why I quit flying. NY airports ALWAYS delay arrivals. Heck, you can watch for yourself on jetBlue flight status.

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              • #8
                Forgot to ask, if anyone has ever no-showed or walked off a plane at the last minute? I've no-showed, and canceled. Another time, I made it down the gate, but turned around and left.

                Sometimes I regret it, since my girlfriend flies all the time, especially to Argentina.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LLL View Post
                  Forgot to ask, if anyone has ever no-showed or walked off a plane at the last minute? I've no-showed, and canceled. Another time, I made it down the gate, but turned around and left.

                  Sometimes I regret it, since my girlfriend flies all the time, especially to Argentina.
                  I've often wanted to, but never have. That's because I only fly when it's really necessary--either professional responsibilities, or seeing family/friends.

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                  • #10
                    It's too expensive not to board, I board no matter what. It's not a matter of safety, just comfort. I just buck up. That being said, I don't fly that much, or I fly last minute and don't book if I don't like what I see.
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                    • #11
                      Refunds

                      Originally posted by tb_neg View Post
                      It's too expensive not to board, I board no matter what. It's not a matter of safety, just comfort. I just buck up. That being said, I don't fly that much, or I fly last minute and don't book if I don't like what I see.
                      I agree. It is expensive depending on how it's done.

                      On Southwest, if you tell them 60 min before scheduled departure, you're good. One time, I was supposed to fly SW out of Islip, but couldn't work up the nerve to fly when I got there, so they refunded me.

                      I have a balance on another airline, and unless I get over this fear, they'll make a little bit of cash off me for nothing.

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                      • #12
                        I had to fly a lot in the last couple months, and even more this month. Every flight was turbulent for the majority of the trip. 2 hour flights felt like 6 hour flights because I was on the edge of my seat the whole time with my heart racing. Overall I can get through it when I need to travel, I haven't walked off any flights yet, but I have passed on tons of trip opportunities because of it.

                        What I'm really afraid of the most is encountering some really scary turbulence so bad it causes me to develop a real phobia around flying. Just reading some of the horror stories on here makes me never want to fly again.

                        I've read some other posts from people saying that hitting bad turbulence makes you less fearful of light turbulence, but it's the opposite for me because after hitting bad turbulence, I go into every flight fearful of hitting turbulence that bad again.

                        Several years ago I was on a flight and the plane just started to go into free fall all of a sudden. It only lasted a few seconds, but it freaked me out so much that in all my flights since, I haven't been able to relax because I always fear that the plane could just drop out of the sky like that at any moment.

                        I've spoken to others who have traveled all their lives and were never bothered by it at all, but are now extremely nervous flyers. I really wish there was a better way to travel or that flying was more comfortable again, I'm worried that if conditions continue to decline, I'm going to keep passing on more and more trips until I'm rarely traveling anymore.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by elektrobank View Post
                          I had to fly a lot in the last couple months, and even more this month. Every flight was turbulent for the majority of the trip. 2 hour flights felt like 6 hour flights because I was on the edge of my seat the whole time with my heart racing. Overall I can get through it when I need to travel, I haven't walked off any flights yet, but I have passed on tons of trip opportunities because of it.

                          What I'm really afraid of the most is encountering some really scary turbulence so bad it causes me to develop a real phobia around flying. Just reading some of the horror stories on here makes me never want to fly again.

                          I've read some other posts from people saying that hitting bad turbulence makes you less fearful of light turbulence, but it's the opposite for me because after hitting bad turbulence, I go into every flight fearful of hitting turbulence that bad again.

                          Several years ago I was on a flight and the plane just started to go into free fall all of a sudden. It only lasted a few seconds, but it freaked me out so much that in all my flights since, I haven't been able to relax because I always fear that the plane could just drop out of the sky like that at any moment.

                          I've spoken to others who have traveled all their lives and were never bothered by it at all, but are now extremely nervous flyers. I really wish there was a better way to travel or that flying was more comfortable again, I'm worried that if conditions continue to decline, I'm going to keep passing on more and more trips until I'm rarely traveling anymore.
                          Keep in mind that even though it might have felt like the plane went into "freefall", it didn't. More like it just abruptly lost a bit of altitude due to a downdraft. It was still moving forward. The only time an abrupt drop in altitude is a life threatening danger is when the plane is in the last few seconds before landing and there's a microburst that could send the plane crashing short of the runway. But they have technology in place these days that alerts pilots of those conditions so it's not as much a threat today.

                          I have a flight tomorrow. I'm feeling really nervous about it. I was actually starting to feel less and less nervous about flying over time, but ever since that Air France crash a few months ago, it sort of reset my fear. Maybe because that's my worst nightmare scenario and it actually happened. Being in a plane, in the black of night over the ocean, hundreds or thousands of miles from land in any direction, hitting severe turbulence and then falling from the sky into the black abyss down below. It gives me chills just thinking about it. I try to tell myself "it's just wind...it's just wind", but that Air France crash didn't help.

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                          • #14
                            Flying Is Nuts

                            I hate flying too. How did I solve the problem? Just stopped doing it.

                            I really hate when pilots fly into storms and clouds, like jetBlue flight 24 did over Orlando/Daytona last night. I watch on flightaware or in person, in amazement and fear for every soul aboard.

                            I'll be driving from Florida to NYC on Thursday to avoid 36,000 feet of helplessness.

                            Still flying is much much safer than driving.

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                            • #15
                              <i>just abruptly lost a bit of altitude due to a downdraft</i>

                              LOL. You make it sound so harmless.

                              Air France story sounds so suspicious. Why did the pilot fly into the strongest part of a storm? Makes no sense.

                              Thank Gee Oh Dee I'll never have to fly for the rest of my life.

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