Pilots and turbulence

monkeyshaved

Lifetime Elite
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I wondered about other people's experiences of pilots informing passengers about turbulence during flights.

In my experience, passengers are lucky to get a rushed and muffled comment before take off about the weather en route. Then if the plane hits turbulence and the seatbelt sign comes on - nothing.... I know its difficult to predict, but if people are anything like me, its some comfort during turbulence to know: A. That the pilot can feel it too, and isn't oblivious to the (albeit illogical) anxiety some passengers might be feeling. B. Any idea from the pilot as to what is causing it (a front, jet stream etc.) and any guess as to how long it will last - I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that part of my fear comes from worrying that when you hit turbulence, thats only the start of it and the rest of the flight will consist of hours of turbulence increasing in severity and I'm stuck on a plane with a pilot who's so experienced that he (or she) barely notices it!
 

tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
I do think the pilots notice it, but it really depends on who's flying that craft that day. Some are the stoic non communicative type, and some are really quite good at communicating. I've flown Northwest mainly, and I find that they are very good about communicating the smallest bump in the sky and I just haven't experienced what you've experienced on your flights, they are very communicative.

Also, read this column for a bit more color on the whole thing.

http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2006/11/03/askthepilot207/

What airline do you usually fly?
 

monkeyshaved

Lifetime Elite
The cost of communication?

The cost of communication?

I guess I'm basing these experiences on recent flying generally on budget airlines in Europe - maybe you have to pay extra for communicative pilots!

Or maybe there is a difference between short / long haul or Europe / North America. As you say, I'm sure a lot comes down to who is "behind the wheel". If only Northwest flew around Europe, I'd be much happier!!

Fingers crossed for a smooth flight with a non-stoic, highly communicative British Airways pilot on my impending LHR - EWR next week...

Regards
 

tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
Make sure you post a request for a personalized forecast for your LHR-EWR when it comes up. Sounds like Continental for you?

As for Europe turbulence, check the Europe page, the maps are actually pretty good, and they predict future trouble spots.

As for the stoic pilots, I guess communication is extra money.
 

monkeyshaved

Lifetime Elite
My mistake - actually LHR - JFK on British Airways (a daytime flight - always finds that helps in as much as you can see something out the window during any turbulence)
 

vikingjunior

New member
I hate when am on a flight and we hit moderate to severe turbulence and the pilot doesn't come on the PA to say anything.

This one flight it was a red eye from PHX-JFK America West and we hit severe turbulence shortly after take off, well this turbulance lasted for another 3 hours and the pilot never said a word. My heart was in my mouth the whole flight. At one point I got up and walked to the back of the plane were the FA was sitting and asked her if this was normal, she said" NO now go sit down". I'll never take America West again.

I find Jet Blue pilots to be very communicative.
 

vikingjunior

New member
I also did some analyzing of Jet Blue flights and there willingness to avoid turbulence. Happy to report that Jet Blue will also waste some fuel to avoid severe turbulence.

I like Northwest also but they don't have many non stop flights from east to west.
 

kingpenguin78

New member
I find that the 'customer first' budget airlines are a lot more communicative than the big guys. WestJet flights are always superb for me as it really seems that the pilots and flight attendents are interested in my physical and mental wellbeing during the flight.

Ted (run by United) was a good experience too. The pilot actually came on the PA to let us know that the wings were not going to fall off. I am guessing we were in moderate to sev CAT at the time. Quite bumpy.

Northwest has also been great for pilot to passenger communication...

Flying on Air Canada, United, Continental, etc. is always a traumatizing experience.
 

Hunter75

Forum Mod / Channel 9
UA also a good choice

UA also a good choice

I find UA is also a good choice because on most flights you can listen in to the cockpit communication with ATC on Channel 9. Not only is it fun to hear the chatter, but in the absence of a pilot announcement about the bumps, you can hear them ask ATC where the smooth air is. Then it's comforting as you climb or descend during turbulence; you know the pilot is chasing the smooth air.
 

Hunter75

Forum Mod / Channel 9
It is my understanding this is unique to UAL. I know they are definitely the only domestic carrier with the service. They even trademarked "Channel 9" for their branding.

Keep in mind it's only available on mainline United flights (no audion on any United Express flights) and it's only available on United metal (so, don't think a code share with US will get you this).
 

tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
It is a United only thing, and the one time I took United, they didn't turn it on for any of the flights.
 

Hunter75

Forum Mod / Channel 9
Yeah, it is definitely disappointing when it's not on. I find that asking the FA after take-off will result in the pilot turning it on. I would say it's available on about 90% of the flights I take.

I fly UA for the extra 5 inches of legroom in Economy Plus...Channel 9 is just gravy.
 

Putt4Par

New member
This one flight it was a red eye from PHX-JFK America West and we hit severe turbulence shortly after take off, well this turbulance lasted for another 3 hours and the pilot never said a word.
You guys are funny. You hit "severe" turbulence and then it lasted 3 hours? It is very obvious you don't know what severe turbulence is. Most pilots experience severe turbulence only two or three times in their careers. Severe turbulence is very short lived, no more than 10 seconds altogether. During severe turbulence the aircraft is out of control for a few seconds...meaning, the pilot cannot override what is happening.

Moderate turbulence is more common....the plane dropping fast and then going up, wings tilting from one side to the other, fishtailing. Even then, pilots will do everything possible to get out of moderate turbulence as it is very uncomfortable. Something that lasted for 3 hours was probably light with some moderate jolts. Nothing to be worried about.

Matter of fact, turbulence does nothing to a pilot. They change altitudes to give passangers a smoother ride. In most cases the autopilot is engaged and continues to be engaged as the airplane goes through the turbulence.

The only times an airplane goes through moderate turbulence and there is nothing to do is during approach or during ascend, but again, this is short lived.

P4P
 
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tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
I think that turbulence that is officially classified as 'light' by the FAA is probably described by many as 'moderate', and that FAA's 'moderate' is probably most people's severe, and severe would probably be quite unpleasant for many flyers (seasoned or other wise).
 

Putt4Par

New member
If the turbulence I experienced was considered moderate then I surely wouldn't want to see severe.
Most likely it was moderate, or even light-to-moderate, as moderate doesn't really last very long. The pilot will do everything to get you out of it, but sometimes they can't because rides may be bad from FL200 to FL400 so they have to ride it. But remember that if they try to change altitudes to get out of light or even moderate is basically for passanger comfort. Even moderate turbulence doesn't bother pilots much at all. That should be reassuring to you...at least a little bit.

And yes, I am sure you would not like severe turbulence. I don't think anybody would really "like" it. It is very uncomfortable even for pilots and downright terrifying for passangers. Even when it is short lived, people sometimes have a problem recovering from one of these episodes. But again, it is not very common and most pilots only experience it three or four times during their career.
 

derekn22

New member
I find JetBlue to be very communicative too. I've taken them 4 times so far and 3 of them had some form of moderate turbulence. Each time, the pilots turned on the seatbelt sign and then came over the PA and actually tried to give an estimate of the time the turbulence would last (about 15 minutes which was very accurate). On my first flight, they mentioned that they were going to try and change altitudes but then they came back on and said that it was turbulent at all altitudes, so that we'd have to rough it out.

My flight into Long Beach last night had a bit of comedy to it too. Just after take off, we had to go through some clouds and they flipped on the seat belt sign just in case and said it might get bumpy. We flew through and had a couple of little bumps but nothing too bad. The pilot came back on and said "Well that wasn't as bad as we thought it would be! Nevermind." LOL
 
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