Many people assume that aviation accidents and injuries caused by airplanes occur most often in an airplane crash. Research, however, shows that most injuries sustained in airplanes occurs as a result of air turbulence. Air turbulence can cause brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and other serious personal injuries. In some cases, it can even lead to death.
Air turbulence occurs when an airplane hits an air pocket. This can cause the plane to shift suddenly, drop several hundred feet, or begin to shake dramatically. As a result, anyone who is standing up or moving around the cabin can be slammed against the sides, floor, or ceiling of the cabin. If overhead containers are open during a bout of air turbulence, bags and other heavy objects can come flying out and hit unsuspecting passengers. Turbulence can also cause people to lose their footing and fall. All of this can lead to injuries.
If a pilot realizes that he or she will be approaching some air turbulence, he or she will often alert passengers and turn on the seatbelt sign. Often, passengers will be instructed to return to their seats and buckle their seat belts. Unfortunately, pilots do not always have warning before encountering air turbulence. Air turbulence may happen very suddenly. Some passengers have a false sense of comfort, thinking that as long as the seatbelt sign is not on they can stretch, walk around the cabin, or undo their seat belts with complete safety. This is not entirely the case.
In most commercial flights, pilots warn passengers to remain in their seats unless needed, to walk around the cabin as little as possible, and to keep their seat belts on while their seats. Despite this, many passengers do not pay attention to these instructions. To keep injuries caused by air turbulence to a minimum, it is a good idea to pay attention, and to remain in your seat, with your seatbelt fastened, as much as possible during a fight.
During a typical flight, of course, you want to get up, stretch, and perhaps walk to the bathroom. Walking around and stretching can in fact help prevent blood clots, especially if you are on a long flight. Therefore, walking around for a shorter time may be good idea. However, if you are taking a walk around the plane, keep your walk to minimum, and hold onto the backs of seats as you’re walking. This way, even if the plane hits turbulence, you can still retain your footing and possibly prevent a fall and injury.
If you are sitting in your seat during a flight, keep your seatbelt fastened. If you find your seatbelt uncomfortable, ask for a pillow to support your lower back, or adjust the clasp on your seat belt until it is fairly comfortable. Adjust your position until you’re comfortable, but avoid removing your seatbelt entirely if at all possible. If you are pregnant, ask a flight attendant to help you adjust your seatbelt correctly.