How do pilots cope with turbulence? Explained in 4 minutes by Pilot Lindy

How do pilots cope with turbulence? Explained in 4 minutes by Pilot Lindy


For passengers turbulence can be quite
scary as they feel the plane moving around without knowing what’s going on.
how do pilots cope with turbulence? In short, turbulence is a rapid change of
altitude and direction of the plane and is caused by air masses with different
temperatures, speed and air density that meet each other. You will find turbulence
usually in three different circumstances: turbulence caused by cumulonimbus clouds,
wake turbulence from other airplanes and clear air turbulence. Cumulonimbus clouds
are thunderstorm clouds. Inside these clouds, the air moves vertically up and
down and if you enter these clouds, the plane will move along with the air
around it, giving the plane a shaky vertical movement. Wake turbulence is
caused by other airplanes that are passing through the air. The engines
exhaust gases are hot and make the air turbulent. This is called jet wash and
may cause a crossing aircraft to change altitude or heading momentarily. Another
component of wake turbulence are wingtip vortices which are created by the
pressure difference when an airplane’s wing generates lift. The pressure
difference that was created above and below the wing makes the air move in a
circular direction. These vortices can stay up to three minutes and move
downwards. This is why it’s important for takeoff and landing to keep a minimum of
two to three minutes between two aircraft depending on their weight
categories. Clear air turbulence is the most difficult turbulence to predict as
it is not visible on the airplane’s weather radar. You find clear air
turbulence near mountains or when flying close to the tropopause. Our atmosphere
consists of different layers. The lower layer is called the troposphere, the
second layer is called the stratosphere and between these two layers there is
the tropopause usually around ten kilometres around the same altitude of
the airplanes cruise levels. The tropopause is usually very turbulent as
it’s the middle between the two layers that have different temperatures and air
density. On low levels you can find clear air turbulence around mountains. When the wind encounters the mountain the air lifts or
descends. This can cause dangerous situations for aircraft at low levels.
When the wind comes from the top of the mountain it will freefall downwards and
cause down drafts and then updrafts. We call this phenomenon wind shear.
Turbulence is categorized in three levels: light turbulence where the
turbulence is uncomfortable for some people, moderate turbulence where writing
and walking is difficult and loose objects will move significantly and
severe turbulence where all crew needs to sit down immediately as it may cause
heavy injuries to every person that is not seated with their seatbelt fastened.
So how do pilots avoid turbulence? In the case of cumulonimbus clouds we use our
weather radar that indicates areas of heavy clouds. When we approach such
clouds we will fly a different heading to fly well around the cloud preferably
at the upwind side, as the air on the downwind side of the cumulonimbus cloud
may be turbulent as well. For wake turbulence, it is important to follow the
established rules and keep enough time after another plane has taken off. As
clear air turbulence is the most difficult to predict, it is also the most
difficult to avoid. When we encounter clear air turbulence, we will make a
PIREP, a pilot report, to the air traffic control and tell the flight level and
intensity of the turbulence. We then ask if we can climb or descend to another
flight level where no turbulence has been reported. If we are approaching a
runway and the wind is very gusty and mountains are around, we may expect wind shear. When we encounter wind shear on landing, we immediately discontinue the landing and make a go-around as that is always
the safest thing to do in case of windshear.

12 thoughts on “How do pilots cope with turbulence? Explained in 4 minutes by Pilot Lindy

  1. Thank you Lindy! I had a PPL licence (when I was younger) and am not afraid to fly. This said, I am a bit uneasy with turbulence… So now I will just say "Lindy said there is nothing to worry about" and I'm sure I'll be fine! 🙂 All your technical videos are awesome, you're a born teacher! 👍

  2. Hello Lindy! What would your advice be to help me cope with my fear of flying overseas? I'm gonna be on my first intercontinental flight this year.

  3. I’ve spoken to a pilot captain of a Boeing 777. I asked him, what happens if the plane takes a nose dive or what happens during severe turbulence? He said in severe turbulence, he would leave it to the autopilot to adjust and correct and might even counter steer itself during turbulence. But if the plane would to ever take a nose dive, he wouldn’t be able to do much or anything depending on the situation. It’s really sad when a Captain who has been flying for more than 20 years is not able to control the plane if ever an incident such as a nose dive occurs. It’s out of anyone’s control.

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