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Ten people on American Airlines Flight 759 from Athens (ATH) to Philadelphia (PHL) were hospitalized after the Airbus A330 experienced severe, unexpected turbulence shortly before landing on Saturday.
According to people on the flight, the turbulence lasted only about 15 seconds, but it was more than enough time to cause a panic in the cabin.
“Thirty minutes out, they were giving us our drinks. The flight attendants were in the last couple rows when they said, ‘Fasten your seat belts,'” Ian Smith told the Philadelphia ABC affiliate. “And then they said for the flight attendants to get to their seats, and they didn’t even have time. It started shaking, then it took a big drop — babies screaming, people in front of us hitting the ceiling.”
Another passenger, Jessica Huseman, shared her experience in a series of tweets.
“Turbulence on flight was so insane and unexpected a flight attendant dislocated his shoulder,” she wrote.
According to Huseman, the turbulence was so bad that some of the coffee that was being served ended up pooling inside the overhead lights. She posted a photo of the disarray.
In total, there were 299 people aboard the aircraft, 287 passengers and 12 crew members. After the flight landed safely in Philadelphia, three of the passengers and seven of the crew members were hospitalized.
American Airlines released the following statement: “American Airlines flight 759 from Athens, Greece, to Philadelphia International Airport briefly encountered severe turbulence shortly before landing safely in Philadelphia. The seat-belt sign was on at the time. Three passengers and seven crew members were transported to a local hospital for evaluation. We are taking care of our passengers and our crew members at this time and want to thank our team members for keeping our passengers safe.”
Huseman spoke highly of how the AA crew members handled the incident, and told followers she was not injured, despite being covered in coffee that she had just been served.
In general, the best thing passengers can do to stay safe on a flight is to keep their seat belts fastened at all times. Pilots often know ahead of time when turbulence is coming and can turn on the seat-belt sign before their planes hit it, but sometimes there’s no warning. Fortunately, there’s not too much reason to worry — the severe turbulence that hit AA 759 and a recent United flight is rare.
If you’re unsettled by turbulence, reports of these rough patches are a good time to remember that we’re 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 say that the industry, government officials and aviation experts learn from each and every serious aviation incident, and use that knowledge to improve safety. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration 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.
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