10 Hospitalized After United Flight Hits Severe Turbulence
Yesterday, Houston-bound United Flight #1031 hit a patch of severe turbulence, which left at least 14 injured. According to a statement from United, "paramedics met the aircraft to provide medical care" with nine passengers and one crew member taken to the hospital for further treatment and evaluation. Some reports show passengers being wheeled out of the airport wearing neck braces.
According to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Boeing 737 "reported encountering severe turbulence in Mexican airspace about 80 miles east of Cancun." It's believed that this patch of turbulence caused by Tropical Storm Cindy, which is churning in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of an expected landfall in Louisiana on Thursday morning.
While the flight was still far outside of Houston when the incident occurred, the crew seems to have determined that none of the injuries were life threatening — the plane continued along its way to Houston rather than diverting to a closer airport in Mexico. However, judging by some of the photos that are emerging, the injuries weren't minor:
The aircraft involved (N12225) doesn't seem to have been significantly damaged by the incident. According to FlightRadar24 data, the 18-year old Boeing 737-800 is scheduled to fly United Flight #1437 from Houston (IAH) to San Francisco (SFO) this morning. UPDATE: This aircraft has been reassigned to United Flight #1777 from Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX) at 3pm today.
Remember that the best thing you can do to stay safe on a flight is to keep your seat belt fastened at all times. Oftentimes pilots will have an indication of turbulence and will be able to turn on the seat belt sign. However, sometimes there will be no warning.
Fortunately, there's not much to worry about with regard to turbulence — as long as you're buckled in. Hopefully the worst case is that you end up with a spilled drink. Severe turbulence like what happened on this United flight — or a recent Aeroflot flight — is quite rare.
If you're unsettled by turbulence, these rough patches are a good time to remember that we are halfway through the eighth straight year of no fatalities from accidents on US-based commercial airlines. This is a remarkable record, but it's not just a lucky streak.
The investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assures that we learn everything we can from any serious aviation incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) works to ensure that airlines operate as safely as possible — fining airlines that don't comply and grounding airplanes when there's a potential safety risk.
Still unsettled? There are tools like the SkyGuru app or the Turbulence Forecast service to help nervous travelers at least know when to expect turbulence.
If you want to learn more about turbulence and what causes it, here's a briefer on the topic — from United: