A packed jumbo jet experienced such extreme turbulence that nine passengers and a cabin crew member were injured, an accident report for Virgin Atlantic has revealed.
The London-bound Boeing 747 ran into extreme turbulence after the pilots’ study of weather radar returns led them to alter course to avoid bad weather on their intended route.
The radar monitoring by the pilots ‘appeared to indicate a line of weather across the aircraft’s intended track’, said the report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
Having altered course, crew and passengers ran into ‘a brief period of severe turbulence’ with the injured crew member and two of the injured passengers later being treated in hospital.
The aircraft, which had 400 passengers on board, safely landed at Gatwick, but one of the passengers suffered a knee injury and the cabin crew member, who was in the crew rest area at the time, had head and neck injuries.
At one point the turbulence was so severe that a stewardess had difficulty securing herself in her harness, the report says. Most passengers were already seated with their seatbelts fastened and all those who suffered injury were in the rear, right side of the plane.
The incident happened in the early hours of November 14 last year when the aircraft, which had taken off from Montego Bay in Jamaica, was around 345 miles south of St John’s in Newfoundland.
After their monitoring of the weather radar, the pilots had requested a deviation to the left, (north), to avoid the weather. This was not approved but a deviation to the right of track was, and the crew altered course.
The report said the wind at this stage was from astern, ‘so the crew were not concerned that their new track would be downwind of the observed weather and thus possibly subject to turbulence’.
The AAIB said that as the aircraft flew on, ‘returns on the radar reduced and disappeared altogether’.
But turbulence then started and there were ‘significant climbs and descents’. Once it was over, the cabin crew attended to the injured passengers and crew member, assisted by medically-qualified volunteers from among the passengers.
After the plane landed, medical staff came on board and treated the injured passengers.
In another incident reported by the AAIB, severe turbulence aboard a Dash 8 aircraft being flown from Birmingham to Belfast City Airport led to a stewardess being seriously injured.
She was knocked off her feet during the flight on the morning of February 7 this year. She was treated by a doctor who was travelling as a passenger and later taken to hospital. One of the 71 passengers on board also suffered a minor injury.
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