Can Turbulence Cause a Plane to Crash?

Can turbulence cause a plane to crash

When you experience turbulence on an airplane, your mind quickly wanders. What’s going on, and how long will it last? Will it get worse? Am I safe? Can turbulence cause a plane to crash? Whatever questions we may have, we can agree on one thing: turbulence puts our nerves on edge.

The Federal Aviation Administration (more commonly known as the FAA) keeps a record of turbulence-related injuries. In 2016, 44 people were injured because of turbulence on a plane, 11 of whom were crew members. In 2015, the numbers were much lower: 21 people were injured,14 of whom were airline staff. If injuries related to turbulence are on the rise, should I be worried?

In 2017 alone, two planes reported injuries as a result of turbulence. On August 5, 2017, American Airlines flight 759 encountered severe turbulence, which sent 10 people to the hospital, according to the New York Post. Although victims did sustain injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, the pilots were able to keep the plane in the air, so thankfully, a crash did not occur. In May, an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok ran into a “pocket of clear air,” resulting in injuries to more than 24 passengers. Again, turbulence did not cause the plane to crash.

If you have ever wondered if turbulence can cause a plane crash, the short answer is yes. A more accurate response is that although the disruption in wind patterns can be a contributing factor in an accident, airplanes are complicated machines, so there is often more than one explanation for a crash. To better answer this question, we’ll explore the science behind flight and air flow, the role turbulence plays in plane crashes, myths about turbulence and statistics that will help you better understand this common but relatively misunderstood phenomenon.

What is Turbulence?

We all know that feeling in the pit of our stomach when we hit rough skies when flying. What is turbulence, exactly, and what conditions can make it worse? Passengers feel turbulence when a plane moves through an area where air and wind flows have been disrupted. These “rough patches” can be caused by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, the air that circulates around mountains, weather fronts and storms.

There are five common types of turbulence:

Mechanical Turbulence

Sometimes, mechanical turbulence occurs close to the Earth’s surface when horizontal wind flow is disrupted as air flows over buildings, mountains, hills and other physical features. These unusual air movements can manifest as squalls, which can result in severe turbulence if your plane travels through these eddies.

Mountain wave Turbulence

Found downwind from mountain ridges, mountain waves occur when air currents fluctuate between different altitudes. This type of turbulence can be quite severe and can occur hundreds of miles from a range.

Thermal Turbulence

As the name suggests, thermal turbulence is caused by a temperature imbalance. When a column of warm air rises, a corresponding, slower moving and larger body of air flows downward, which causes irregular air flows.

Frontal Turbulence

Associated with cold fronts and, to a lesser degree, warm fronts, frontal turbulence is caused by the friction between two opposing air masses when weather changes. Fast-moving cold air masses are usually the culprit for the most severe cases of this type of turbulence.

Clear Air Turbulence

Clear air turbulence (CAT) is caused by strong changes in air flows within the jet stream. Wind shear is the technical term for the change in wind direction or speed over a specific horizontal or vertical distance. This type of turbulence can be caused by temperature inversions and along troughs and lows. Clear air turbulence usually occurs above 15,000 feet and is most frequent during winter.

There are various intensities of turbulence, from level 1, which is considered light, to level 4, which is extreme. Passengers on a flight with level 1 turbulence may feel a strain against their seat belts, and items may shift on the plane. Unsecured objects may move within the cabin and passengers won’t be able to walk down the aisle during level 3 turbulence. In rare cases, extreme turbulence can result in the entire aircraft being impossible to control. Planes which have experienced severe turbulence may sustain structural damage and can crash.

How Many Planes Have Gone Down Because of Turbulence?

Turbulence can cause plane crashes, either as the primary reason for an accident or a contributing factor.

According to the FAA, 234 turbulence accidents occurred from 1980 to 2008 resulting in 298 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of those serious injuries, 184 victims were flight attendants and 114 were passengers. Of the three fatalities, two were passengers who were not wearing their seat belts while the fasten seatbelt sign was on. Most turbulence-related accidents occur at or above 30,000 feet and many are linked to passengers not being securely fastened in their seats.

In 1966, a British Overseas Airways plane crashed and the tail fin tore apart after experiencing winds in excess of 140 miles per hour. In 1968, turbulence tore a wing off a Wien Consolidated Airlines flight in Alaska. More recently, in 2009 an Air France flight flew into a storm. In an attempt to steer away from inclement weather, the pilot sent the plane into an aerodynamic stall, which caused the plane to crash. In that tragedy, a combination of turbulence, airspeed sensor malfunction and most likely pilot error all contributed to the crash.

Turbulence Myths

When it comes to turbulence, it can be hard to separate what is fact from what could be simply an urban myth. Let’s explore the most common misconceptions about turbulence and reveal the truth about this unsettling feeling you can experience while in the air.

Myth: You Can always Predict Turbulence

There is no system to predict turbulence 100 percent of the time. However, in many cases, pilots will warn passengers over the public address system that rough skies are ahead. Measures to prevent turbulence start before the plane even leaves the ground.

First, meteorologists and dispatchers plan each flight’s route to avoid any possible air disturbances. Once the plane is in the air, displays in the cockpit indicate any changes in weather that could cause the pilot to alter the flight plan. For example, precipitation can cause shifts in air flows, which can result in turbulence. Pilots can use radar data to avoid developing storms and other weather events. In some cases, readings may show multiple storms ahead and the flight crew may choose an alternate route with the least severe weather. In these cases, flight attendants may ask passengers to return to their seats and put on their seat belts until the plane emerges from the impacted area.

Mountain turbulence can also be predicted in some cases, but clear air turbulence is harder to foresee. Sometimes, pilots who have recently flown through problem areas can warn other planes of potential problems. In other cases, air traffic controllers can relay this information directly to flight crews. Pilots may be able to alter their course or adjust their altitude to avoid the worst of the turbulence.

As we all know, despite all of these sophisticated tools, turbulence still occurs relatively frequently on commercial flights.

Myth: Severe Turbulence Can Tear Apart a Plane

The last major air disaster blamed on turbulence was near Mount Fuji in Japan in 1966. Airplanes are now designed to withstand significantly more turbulence. That explains why, in many cases, although turbulence can cause injuries, these incidents don’t usually result in a plane crash, unless there are other contributing factors.

Although turbulence is often not severe enough to cause a crash on a major airline, smaller aircraft can be more vulnerable to these types of disturbances. Private planes are usually flown by less experienced pilots operating aircraft which are not subject to the same rigorous testing and maintenance requirements as commercial airlines. Helicopter passengers can also face similar risks in bad weather.

MYTH: There’s No Way to Avoid Turbulence

Turbulence is so common that you could easily think there is no way to avoid it. If you want to avoid this unsettling experience during the summer, when passengers typically experience more turbulence, you can choose a flight in the morning when it’s less likely to occur. You can also choose to sit near the wings of a plane where turbulence tends to be less noticeable.

What Really Causes Crashes?

Plane crashes are usually caused by a number of factors. According to a DailyMail article, the top reasons planes crash are pilot error, mechanical failure, weather, sabotage and other forms of human error.

Pilot Error

Pilot error accounts for around 50 percent of all crashes. A recent example in the United States was in 2015 when a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport. Thankfully, the incident resulted in no serious injuries, but the pilot used too much reverse thrust on the snowy runway, which caused him to lose control of the plane.

In 2009, an Air France plane crashed after flying through a thunderstorm because of instrument failure. Afterwards, the pilot mistakenly put the aircraft into a rapid climb, which caused the plane to stall. Instead of following normal protocol and lowering the nose, the pilot continued to attempt to ascend. Sadly, all 228 people on the flight perished.

Although there are cases where commercial airline pilots cause a plane to crash, most flight fatalities caused by pilot error occur on private planes.

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical failure accounts for about 20 percent of aircraft losses. As you might expect, the older a plane is, the more likely its parts will fail. On September 30, 2017, an Air France flight made an emergency landing after one of its engines disintegrated. In August of the same year, an AirAsia flight lost power in its left engine. A few months earlier, actress Jennifer Lawrence’s private jet suffered double engine failure. In that same month, a United Airlines flight had to return to O’Hare after its engine caught fire when it struck a bird. Thankfully, in each of these instances, no one was seriously injured.

Obviously, there are many different parts and components that make up a plane. Even during routine maintenance, human error can play a role in the plane’s safety. For example, a technician may install parts incorrectly, parts may be missing or necessary checks may go undone if the aviation maintenance technician’s physical state is compromised. This line of work requires attention to detail and any one of these factors can be an issue, as well as the technician’s capabilities and limitations or even the environmental conditions he or she is working in. When it comes to mechanical failure, many factors can play a role in the safety of an aircraft.

Weather

Weather can cause delayed or canceled flights and accounts for 10 percent of aircraft losses. Pilots go through extensive training to deal with a variety of weather-related situations. Fog reduces visibility, and if it becomes too dense, it can close runways. Some airports, like the one in San Francisco, deal with this issue more than others.

High winds can also cause issues during takeoff and landings. Planes need to maintain a certain speed and an unexpected gust of strong wind can alter optimal flying conditions. New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport is one location in particular that tends to see problems due to inclement weather. Accuweather reported that JFK averages 43,124 weather-related delays each year.

Snow not only reduces visibility, but also it makes runways slippery and impacts the functionality of the plane. How many times have you flown from a snowy region and had to sit at the gate while the plane is de-iced? Chicago’s O’Hare airport experiences 160,000 weather-related delays.

Severe thunderstorms can also bring with them lightning, strong winds and heavy rains, as well as ice. Thanks to these storms, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport experiences the most weather-related delays, which contribute to its abysmal 72 percent on-time departure rate.

Sabotage

Although this occurs less frequently than we might imagine, hijacking represents 10 percent of aircraft losses. Sabotage rarely results in fatalities, but there are documented cases leading back to 1948. In recent US history, 9/11 is the event that most people remember, when an American Airlines plane and a United flight were flown into the Twin Towers. On that same day, an American flight hit the Pentagon and a United flight crashed to the ground in Pennsylvania. Today’s increased security measures are meant to reduce the opportunity for these occurrences.

How You Can Protect Yourself and Your Family From Turbulence-Related Injuries

Once you learn that turbulence can play a role in airline accidents, your next question is probably how to prevent yourself or someone you love from being involved in a crash or incident. The biggest risk passengers face is falling inside of an aircraft when a plane experiences turbulence, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to:

  1. Keep your seatbelt securely fastened when you are in your seat.
  2. Follow the safety guidelines as instructed by the flight crew.
  3. Secure infants in an airline-approved infant carrier in his/her own seat.

Slack Davis Sanger Applies Extensive Aviation Expertise To Represent Victims of Airline Accidents and Crashes

Thankfully, airline safety has improved dramatically over the years. When tragedy does strike, however, you want an someone on your side who understands both how airplanes operate and the complicated set of rules that govern airline travel. The nationally recognized attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have worked for decades to apply their extensive technical aviation knowledge to successfully represent hundreds of passengers in complex aviation crashes. With a winning track record and compassion for victims and their families, our attorneys have become a leader in this area of law.

What Happens When a Case Goes to Trial?

What happens when a case goes to trial

If you are trying to make a decision about whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering about the process. Let’s say you have a lawyer who has agreed to take your case. What happens next? And how likely is it that you will end up in court? Let’s answer some of the most common questions our plaintiffs have about when a case goes to trial.

You might be surprised to learn that, in the United States, of those cases that don’t get dismissed by the court, only four to five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. That means that about 95% of cases are settled out of court. But before we talk about what happens in court, let’s back up and review how your case actually gets to court.

Meeting With An Attorney

Once you think that you may have a claim against a business or individual for causing you harm, you’ll speak with a personal injury lawyer. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations, so that you can determine whether you have a claim that could be successful. When you have your first meeting, you’ll provide information to the lawyer about what led you to want to file a lawsuit and answer a series of questions. The more information you can provide to your attorney, the better he or she will be able to determine the best next steps. In addition to discussing the details surrounding your case, the lawyer will talk to you about practical matters, such as the different expenses and fees and how long they believe it will take to resolve your case. Most, if not all, personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. That means that you don’t pay for any expenses, including the lawyer’s fees, unless they win your case. If the lawyer agrees to take your case, you’ll sign a representation agreement stating that they will officially be your attorney for this particular case.

Filing Papers and Fact-Finding

At the beginning of a lawsuit, your attorney will file court documents stating the facts that support your claims and who you are suing. In Texas, these documents are called the “original petition.” In addition, your attorney will prepare and file what are known as a “summons,” which is a notice to the defendant about your lawsuit, and “service of process,” which is the procedure by which notice of the lawsuit is actually given to the defendant. The defendant typically has a limited time in which to respond to your original petition. When responding to an original petition, a defendant will usually just file what is known as an “original answer.” In this original answer, the defendant will often just generally deny everything in your original petition until the defendant has a chance to discover more facts about the lawsuit you have filed.

After your original petition is filed, the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is a term used to describe written requests for information from the defendant and any non-parties that may be helpful to your case. Such requests include written questions (interrogatories), requests for production of documents and inspection of premises or land where the injury occurred, and depositions. Depositions are interviews of witnesses, which are documented by a court reporter and involve an attorney asking the witness a series of questions. Interrogatories are written questions submitted to the defendant that are to be answered and sworn to in writing. Both sides must have access to all the documents which relate to the case. The defendant can and will apply these same discovery requests and procedures to you as well.

Resolving Your Case Before Trial

Much of what happens before a case can go to trial is known as “motion practice.” Motions are requests filed by lawyers asking the court to decide an issue relevant to the case. Such decisions are known as “rulings.” Some rulings might even end the lawsuit before it ever goes to trial. For example, the defendant might file a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss the case might be filed for:

  • Lack of subject matter jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have the legal authority to rule on your case)
  • Lack of personal jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have legal authority over the defendant because the defendant resides outside of the court’s “jurisdiction”)
  • Improper venue (the lawsuit hasn’t been filed in the correct court)
  • Insufficient service of process (the defendant wasn’t given proper notice of the lawsuit)
  • Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (there is no legal remedy for the harm caused you often because either the defendant’s conduct isn’t considered wrongful in the eyes of the law or your harm cannot be actually traced to the defendant’s wrongful conduct)

Once the case is further along in the discovery process, the defendant may also file what is known as a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the defendant can show that you, as the plaintiff, cannot prove some element of your claim. Typically, in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must have evidence to support each element of his or her claim. A negligence claim, for example, consists of the following three elements: 1) a wrongful or negligent act or omission on the defendant’s part, 2) a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant not to commit that wrongful or negligent act, and 3) a harm to the plaintiff caused by that negligent or wrongful act or omission. If you do not have sufficient evidence to support each and every one of the above elements, then summary judgment could be granted against you and your claim will be permanently denied.

That being said, legal claims are often resolved before trial through a negotiated settlement process. When this happens, the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any further legal action in exchange for a payment from the defendant or insurance company. In many instances, both parties may agree to mediate the case prior to the case going to trial. In a mediation, both parties present evidence that supports their claims while a neutral party—the mediator—tries to get the two sides try to agree on a settlement amount. If the parties do not agree, the case often then proceeds to trial.

When Your Case Goes To Trial

What does going to trial mean, exactly? If you are involved in a personal injury case, a trial provides the opportunity for the plaintiff to argue his or her case so that the judge or jury can examine the evidence, decide what really happened and rule on whether to find the defendant liable or responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Typically, a personal injury trial consists of choosing a jury, opening statements by the lawyers for each side, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments by each side, jury instructions given by the court and deliberation—that is consideration of all the facts and the law that applies—by the jurors. Once the jurors have made their decision, a verdict will be issued by the court.

After jury selection, each side has a chance to make its case in opening statements. The witness testimony and cross-examination stage is the main part of the trial. The plaintiff works to convince the jury that the defendant is liable for the damages or harm caused to the plaintiff. Witnesses and experts are called to testify, in which they take an oath to be truthful and answer questions asked by each side’s attorneys.

Once both sides present their case, closing arguments offer once last chance to convince the jury before their deliberations begin. The judge provides specific instructions to the jury to help them make their decision and then the jurors consider the case as a group. Once the jury has made a decision, the judge announces the verdict.

What Happens After a Trial in Court?

If you win the case, the defendant is often required to pay monetary damages. Ordinarily, an insurance company is involved and payment of your damages should not be a problem, because the insurance company is prepared for this very type of situation. However, in some cases, when the jury or judge awards you damages in your personal injury lawsuit, the losing party may not have insurance or may refuse to pay the judgment amount or follow the court order. In most states, you can locate a person’s sources of income or assets during post-judgment discovery. You may even be able to collect your settlement from the opposing side’s paychecks.

Slack Davis Sanger Can Help You During All Stages of Your Personal Injury Case

Our legal team at Slack Davis Sanger has the experience and skills to guide you through each stage of the process. Whether it’s asking the right questions to gather information to support your side, investigating the defendant to help the judge and jury understand how the defendant could have avoided hurting you if it had just done the right thing, presenting evidence at trial or helping you secure a settlement, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way.

Part 23 Reform & What it Could Pose

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are rules set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing all aviation activities in the United States. The rules includes Part 23, which details airworthiness standards required for issuance and change of type certifications for certain airplanes, as well as determines special aspects of aircraft performance.

In 2016, the FAA released a final rule to streamline the certification process, and it was deemed a victory for many in the aviation world, providing groundbreaking provisions for aircraft manufacturers. The new rule allows manufacturers to use performance-based standards in place of prescriptive manufacturing methods that have slowed down development of new designs and technologies and caused aircraft certification costs to sky rocket. The new certification process will remove certification categories, such as utility and aerobic and, instead, use four levels of performance and risk testing based on the aircraft’s seating capacity.

Despite the advantages to the aircraft manufacturers, Part 23 reform could pose some serious consequences for the rights and safety of passengers. Under the new rule, if an aircraft meets the airworthiness requirements set forth in the Part 23 certification process, the manufacturer will not be held responsible if a crash occurs due to defective parts, dangerous designs, negligence or failure to warn of a known hazard.

Part 23 aircrafts are also known to have a history of accidents and safety issues. The reform of this rule would take away the ability to hold manufacturers liable for defective parts and allow them to continue producing unsafe aircrafts. The reformed certification is meant to bring much needed technological and safety improvements; however, there has been very little light shed on its dangers to consumers, which should have been weighed heavily in this decision.

The attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have handled many cases involving Part 23 aircrafts. If you or a loved one have been involved in an aviation accident and need help, call us for more information at (800) 455-8686.

Slack Davis Sanger in Best Lawyers® Business Ed.

Partners Mike Davis, John Jose, Ladd Sanger, Michael Slack, and Of Counsel Paula Sweeney were included in the Best Lawyers® Business Edition for their plaintiffs’ work in personal injury litigation.

For more than three decades, Best Lawyers® has become regarded as the definitive guide to legal professionalism and excellence around the globe. Best Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey where more than 52,000 leading attorneys cast 5.5.million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in more than 130 practice areas.

Read the full Business Edition.

Common Construction Site Injuries

Common Construction Site Injuries

A report released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that over 9 million Americans worked in the construction industry in 2014. Unfortunately, construction frequently lands on lists of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. In fact, one in five fatalities that occurred on the job in 2014 took place on a construction site. We’ll discuss which injuries are most common in this line of work and what workers can do if they experience an injury on a job site.

Each day, almost six and a half million construction workers head to over 250,000 sites across the country. Working in construction involves manual labor and the use of a variety of hand and power tools. Although the specific tasks can vary, workers might clear and prepare sites for new builds, build bridges, create trenches, set up support braces or scaffolding, operate heavy equipment, pave roads, demolish existing structures and clean up debris and rubble. The dangerous nature of these tasks makes construction workers particularly vulnerable to a wide range of injuries.

Burns

Working with electrical wiring, chemicals, leaky pipes and many different types of machinery can expose construction workers to the risk of fires, which can lead to burns and scarring.

Head Injuries

The reason that you often see construction workers wearing hard hats is that injuries to this part of the body are common while on the job. Falling objects, tools and materials can lead to cuts, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, among other conditions. Workers who are involved in digging or building a structure from the ground up are particularly at risk for these types of injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The activities most commonly associated with spinal cord injuries at a construction site involve falling off ladders, scaffolding or other elevated platforms or areas. Sadly, these situations can result in partial or full paralysis, damage to the brain and lasting and debilitating disabilities.

Cuts

Not surprisingly, lacerations to the skin are a common construction site injury. Some of the more common construction site hazards that can lead to cuts include defective or poorly maintained tools and machinery, equipment that is not properly secured and exposed nails. If not properly treated, these wounds can become infected, requiring further medical attention. Wearing protective clothing and gear can help reduce these types of injuries.

Bone Injuries

The use of heavy machinery can lead to broken, fractured or even crushed bones. Equipment like bulldozers and cranes can cause serious damage to workers on a construction site if used by someone with improper training. Additionally, this type of equipment can lead to accidents if not properly secured when not in use.

Loss of Limbs

Damage to a construction worker’s extremities can result in the loss of a finger, toe, arm or leg. Heavy equipment and machinery can crush these body parts. In some cases, limbs or digits are so damaged in a construction accident that amputation is required.

Hearing Loss

Construction sites are loud places. The noise generated from heavy equipment and machinery can lead to construction workers’ hearing damage or loss. Workers can experience damage when operating jackhammers and other loud equipment without ear protection or if struck on the side of the head or on the ear by an object or falling materials.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

The manual labor required in the construction industry involves repetitive motion, whether it’s lifting materials or tools or bending down. Repetitive stress injuries frequently cause back problems, which can prove to be debilitating for construction workers.

Heat Stroke

Working outside year-round can expose construction workers to heat-related health problems. A throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea and cramping can indicate that a worker is experiencing heat stroke. If an individual does not seek treatment, heat stroke can lead to organ damage and failure and eventually death.

Loss of Vision

Construction workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals, gases and other materials at job sites which can damage eyesight. In the most severe cases, exposure to these materials can lead to partial vision loss or even blindness.

Avoiding Injuries on the Job Site

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established by Congress to set and enforce workplace safety standards and provide training. OSHA recommends that companies include all necessary safety equipment and tools when estimating the cost of a job. Workers should receive proper training in the use of all heavy machinery, equipment and protective gear. All tools should be well-maintained and in proper working condition. Regular safety inspections can spot potential problems before workers are put at risk.

What To Do If You or a Loved One is Involved in a Construction Site Accident

Damages sustained as a result of a construction site injury can be serious and long-lasting. In most cases, a victim can submit a claim under their state’s workers’ compensation program. However, in some cases, they may be eligible to seek additional compensation through a “third party claim.” These cases may involve the wrongful act of someone else, such as when a tool or machine malfunctions or if an individual is involved in a motor accident on the job.

The dedicated professionals at Slack Davis Sanger can help advise victims on all of their options. In some situations, they may be entitled to compensation to help offset the financial loss if they are unable to resume work, if they have a lasting disability or if they suffered a more serious injury, paralysis or even death. The attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger understand how serious injuries can impact a worker and their family’s day-to-day life. We have worked with many victims to help them get them the compensation they deserve to meet their immediate and long-term needs.