Flight report shows what happens if you don’t wear your seatbelt during turbulence on an airplane
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada is warning air passengers about the risks of ignoring safety instructions on flights, citing a December 2015 turbulence incident that sent 21 people—including three children—to a Calgary hospital.
At the time, passengers described a terrifying experience, in which people who were not wearing seatbelts went flying.
“Honestly, we thought we were dying,” said passenger Connie Gelber. “Like you see in the movies, where they all go up to the ceiling…Everything went up to the ceiling that wasn’t anchored.”
WATCH: Connie Gelber explains the terrifying moments aboard Air Canada flight 088.
The TSB released its investigation report into Air Canada flight ACA088 on Monday, which had to land in Calgary after departing from Shanghai, China on Dec. 30, 2015 en route to Toronto. The plane, a Boeing 777-300ER, had 332 passengers and 19 crew members on board.
The TSB said about five hours into the 13-hour flight, a meteorological bulletin forecasted “severe turbulence.” About two-and-a-half hours later, officers secured the cabin and seatbelt lights were turned on.
“Several announcements were made in English, French and Mandarin, stating that the flight was approaching an area of turbulence and asking the passengers to fasten their seatbelts,” the TSB said Friday. “Despite these measures, many passengers were not wearing their seatbelts when the flight encountered severe turbulence.”
Twenty-one people were injured—one seriously—and the TSB created the below video to show the effects of turbulence on those not wearing seatbelts, noting sprains, strains, bruising and scrapes made up the majority of injuries.
“What follows is an example of what can happen during severe turbulence and is a reminder that the forces of nature are powerful–very powerful,” the video narrator says.
TSB official Jon Lee said human factor specialists tried to understand what motivates people to be compliant with safety instructions.
“One of the factors is understanding the risks,” he said. “These people were in the air for eight hours and had their in-flight meal and it’s dark, versus when you’re driving in a car you’ve got acceleration, deceleration forces and there’s bumpy road and cars going by and there’s cues that there’s risks and hazards out there.
“If the regulator and airlines and passengers themselves become more educated about the consequences and then obeying seatbelt requirements, injuries will be at a minimum, if not non-existent.”
The report found the flight crew’s decision to secure the cabin and reduce to turbulence penetration speed “contributed to preventing significant numbers of injuries in the cabin and potential damage to the aircraft.”
The TSB investigation also found the flight crew’s latest training related to jet streams and turbulence was in 2011 and 2012 but didn’t include information on the increased likelihood of turbulence “through a wide range of altitudes when jet streams cross mountainous terrain.”
“If training material does not contain complete information pertaining to all of the factors that contribute to turbulence, then there is a risk that the best course of action will not be taken,” the TSB said.
The incident spurred Air Canada to issue bulletins that gave dispatchers guidance on reporting and providing information to support flight crews in avoiding turbulence.
With files from Jill Croteau
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