Turbulence causes high rate of workplace injuries to flight crews

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2012 | Workers' Compensation

We have all heard the pilot’s message before: “We have reached our cruising altitude, and passengers are free to move about the cabin, but for those who remain seated, please keep your seatbelts fastened.” But how many of us have ignored it, believing that there is no harm to unbuckling one’s seatbelt in clear and calm skies?

Area residents who are frequent fliers in and out of Philadelphia International Airport know that turbulence can in fact strike out of the blue, jolting an airplane and sending unsecured passengers and crew caroming off of nearby objects. The dangers are more pronounced for crew members, with airlines reporting 49 serious employee injuries attributable to turbulence since 2007.

One may not traditionally associate an airline with a particularly dangerous place to work, but data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that air transportations workers are injured at a rate of greater than 8 in 100. In a few cases, crew members have been crushed by snack carts sent careening by pockets of bumpy air. Some injuries suffered in turbulent skies have included fractured ribs, torn tendons and broken ankles.

While thunderstorms and weather fronts provide easily visible hazards that pilots can navigate around, clear air turbulence is much harder to detect and avoid. Pilots who encounter rough patches relay the information to other planes in the area, but it is an inexact science. NASA has developed technology that can see turbulence in clear skies, but it would be too expensive to install on commercial airliners. For the time being, airlines are requiring that crew members take greater precautions when turbulence strikes, often mandating that they take their seats and fasten their seatbelts.

Source: USA Today, “Danger of turbulence remains safety threat to air travel,” Bart Jansen, Sept. 11, 2012

• No matter what line of work someone is in, obtaining needed benefits for injuries suffered on the job is important. You can learn more by visiting our Bristol workers’ comp accidents page.