FlyerTalk Member Experiences Severe Turbulence; Gives First-Hand Report and Photographs

“I  was on this one. Never experienced anything like that and hope not to again. Everything was completely smooth and then with no warning all the plates and glasses just went flying. They’ve rescheduled us for 5pm departure. They better have a better flight path worked out this time.”

Those were the initial words posted by FlyerTalk member calexandre, who claimed to be one of the 240 passengers aboard a Boeing 777-200 aircraft which operated as American Airlines flight 280 from Seoul to Dallas-Fort Worth on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. The aircraft was also carrying 15 flight crew members at approximately 75 minutes into the flight as it was flying across Japan when it encountered turbulence which lasted for up to 40 seconds, according to this article by Elaine Lies and Michael Perry of Reuters. The turbulence was severe enough to divert the flight and frighten passengers, causing them to scream and pray — and five people were injured enough to be hospitalized; but not enough for those injuries to be life-threatening.

“We’ve just been told we are rescheduled for 5pm on a different aircraft so I guess they’ve appropriated that plane for our flight”, calexandre posted while keeping fellow FlyerTalk members informed as the situation unfolded.

A strong winter storm caused the turbulence — which was severe enough for food and other items to fly, bounce and fall all over the interior of the airplane — resulting in pilots being forced to land the aircraft in Tokyo in an emergency landing. Four passengers and one member of the flight crew were injured. That same winter storm caused the cancellation of greater than 100 flights.

Addressing concerns from fellow FlyerTalk members, calexandre posted the following:

Thanks– I’m okay. I got covered in red wine and glass: I ended up with about six wine glasses broken around me. And the turbulence itself was terrifying, even as a very seasoned frequent flyer… the sounds that plane was making, I hope I never hear again. 

FA working my aisle was a champ. We had just gotten to appetizers when the turbulence struck, and although she was obviously rattled too, she was still thinking of the passengers when we left and was handing out the midflight snack dishes of chicken and noodles with silverware and napkins for us to take with us off the plane to make sure we ate something. 

Otherwise I’d say credit goes less to AA than to the Tokyo staff who handled things on the ground. They bore the brunt of the logistical problems, and they were an absolute model of efficiency. Paramedics were on the plane ASAP, and then once those of us who weren’t injured were off, there were dozens of staff members ready to give us our hotel vouchers, make sure we got our checked bags, and guide us directly to the bus to the hotel. It took maybe 10-15 minutes from getting off the plane to getting on the bus, and that includes the time I spent trying to get past by Japanese tv crews asking me questions about what the incident was like.

There have been other reports recently posted — such as this article written by Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time, which contains a video of what he called “chilling” and “amazing footage” of the severe turbulence as it actually happened — prompting him to post that he was “short of breath just from having watched the video.”

Additionally, calexandre posted photographs of the incident here.

As for the severe turbulence itself, calexandre reported that “There were two extremely intense bouts lasting about 1-2 minutes and sending everything flying. Then between those there was enough turbulence that in C we were holding broken plates and glassware down with pillows and blankets to keep it from causing more injuries. Total we were in bad chop for probably 30-45 minutes, during which time we were shifting around from 27k feet to 36k feet, presumably in search of decent air. We then spent a while in the bad-but-not-hitting-the-ceiling turbulence while the pilot awaited instructions as to whether to go on to Dallas or land at Narita. He knew there were injuries but also knew we might hit more crazy wind so he didn’t have a plan for a good while. I think that’s pretty accurate but of course when you’re experiencing it time stretches and compresses in odd ways.”

This explanation by calexandre of the condition of the aircraft as a result of the severe turbulence is as follows: “Just boarded the replacement flight and the FA advised us that yesterday’s plane has been taken out of service because the wings are ‘rippled and bent.’ Yikes.”

You have probably already asked in your mind: did calexandre receive any compensation as a result of this experience?

The answer is — well — you will have to find out for yourself; as well as to read the reactions by fellow FlyerTalk members; but I for one am thankful that calexandre is all right.

I have experienced what members of the flight crew now euphemistically call rough air; but not to the point of what I would call severe. Yes, I have experienced that momentary drop of what seems to be like three miles straight down where my stomach is in the overhead bin above me — and for some reason, that seems to happen more often during an overnight flight heading east across the United States than at other times for me — and I have experienced some bad turbulence traveling from Tokyo to Singapore for at least a third of the duration of the flight…

…but I know of one particular member of both FlyerTalk and Milepoint who has extolled the virtues of turbulence to me in person. If you do not believe me, here is some proof which is — er — “set in stone”, so to speak:

And some of us who like turbulence. For me, it’s like “rock-a-bye-baby”. Airplane starts rocking, the pax get quiet, and I fall asleep.”

I love turbulence, especially on long haul. It’s like rock a bye baby, rocking the cradle, it helps me fall asleep. Also, all the other pax get quiet and sit down, making the entire cabin more peaceful and restful.

I like turbulence, it helps me sleep. It’s like rocking a cradle for a baby. Also, where there is turbulence the plane gets quiet and everyone sits down, you don’t get all those annoying conversations and people walking around.

Just think of turbulence like rocking the cradle, rock-a-bye-baby, and it will relax you and put you to sleep instead of making you sick.

Of course, lots of bumps translates into turbulence; I like turbulence, it gives the plane a “rock a bye baby cradle” effect and puts me to sleep, making for a restful, relaxing flight.

Turbulence helps me sleep on a plane. It’s like when a mother rocks a baby’s cradle to rock it to sleep; it’s very relaxing. Also, the kettles all sit down and get quiet during turbulence, so that helps too.

I’d go for bumpy. Rockabye baby..Turbulence puts me to sleep

Turbulence puts me to sleep. Rock-a-bye-baby. Very relaxing.

I think you get the drift — to sleep, of course — but I wonder if he would have fallen asleep to the turbulence reported in this article…

…anyway, have you experienced severe turbulence? If so, please recount your experience in the Comments section below. Thank you in advance.

One thought on “FlyerTalk Member Experiences Severe Turbulence; Gives First-Hand Report and Photographs”

  1. Stephen says:

    In the late 60’s I was an intern for a law firm which handled aircraft accident cases. There were several cases involving (as I recall) prop jets which broke up during severe turbulence. Fortunately they make planes a lot better these days. In one case the last words on the flight recorder were the co-plot saying something to the effect that we shouldn’t be in here (the storm) should we, and the pilot replying, “shut up, they will hear us in the tower.”

    After that I went into a different field of law!

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