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May 2007
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Turbulence

I am in Denver now, waiting for my flight to Seattle. It has been delayed an hour so far.

But the story of the trip home so far is the flight from Dayton to Denver. A little ways through the seat belt lights came on. The Captain came on the intercom and said that we were going to hit about 10 minutes of turbulence and to make sure we were belted and secure. The flight attendant repeated this about two minutes later. I could see the flight attendant, but not who she was looking at when she said, over the loudspeaker:

“I don’t care if you need to use the bathroom ma’am, you need to sit down and get belted in RIGHT NOW. You can hold it for ten minutes. Trust me, you do NOT want to be in the bathroom unsecured and be thrown around. Sit down NOW.”

I guess she did. I am guessing she was glad she did.

A few minutes later the turbulence started. It did not last 10 minutes. It lasted more like 3 minutes. But it was the worst turbulence I have ever felt on by far. The airplane lurched violently side to side and up and down. It pitched and yawed suddenly and violently every few seconds. There were a handful of negative G moments. I don’t think I heard any actual screams, but each time it lurched there was a massive collective gasp coming from all over the plane.The whole airframe shook and rattled and felt like it was going to fall apart at any moment.

Of course it didn’t. Three minutes later we were out of it and everything was smooth again.

The pilot came on and explained that we had just passed through the front that has been causing all the tornados and bad weather on the ground. They had spent extra time trying to figure out if they could go under it or over it or around it, but they couldn’t. They did take us about 15 minutes out of our way to find the shortest possible corridor through the turbulent area. Thus getting us 3 minutes of the violent tossing and turning rather than 10 to 15. I thank our pilot very much for that. 3 minutes was quite enough.

The picture is the view out the window (with my cellphone, I didn’t remember until later that I had my real camera with me too) right after we passed out of the turbulent area. You can clearly see the weather front.

Soon after it was over, the people beside me and behind me, who turned out to be Air Force pilots, started talking about the turbulence. “Is that the worst turbulence you have ever felt?” “I think there might have been one time in a transport that might have been, but this was close.” “Well, this was the worst I’ve felt.” “One time I was in something that FELT worse, but I was in a little trainer plane… ” “You would not want to be in anything CLOSE to this in a small plane.” “Yeah, this was very bad.” “Definately the worst I have ever felt on a commercial flight.” Etc.

Anyway, that validated at least a little bit that it really was pretty bad, and not just the uninitiated amoungst us being overly sensitive. The pilot apologized for the rough ride another couple of times before we landed. :-)

Anyway, I’ve certainly read about much worse. Nobody was thrown from their seats, nobody hit the ceiling, there were no injuries. So all is good. (Although if they hadn’t followed the pilot’s instructions to buckle up there probably would have been at least some minor injuries.)

But it was definately an adventure… for 3 minutes.

Now all I have to deal with is the fact that in the time I have been writing this post my flight home has changed gates and been delayed another 20 minutes or so. So I need to finish up and move to the new gate… even though I’ve still got over two hours until the flight is now scheduled to leave. Bleh!