On seat belts, air pockets, climate change and CAT*
*Clear Air Turbulence
Good grief. Where to start.
Once again, the noble press has jumped the shark. How many times have we heard a breathless passenger in a terminal, (or a personal acquaintance relating their own airline roughest-flight-in-their-life-ever war story) with a local news microphone shoved in their face say something like;
"It was terrible! We hit an air pocket! We must've plunged 500 feet!"
Darn those nasty air pockets. They just come out of nowhere. "Air pockets" are what you get under a diving bell or a capsized canoe on a Camp Gitchee Goomee camping trip. Whoever coined that silly phrase should be given a swift kick and sent to sit in the corner. "Air pockets" are not evil hidden things that airplanes blunder into while flying along minding their own business and then plunge 500 feet, which by the way is approximately the height of a 50 story building.
There was a recent incident where people were injured on a flight that hit some unexpected and unforecast CAT. The potential causes of the CAT were never discussed of course. CAT does occur near high wind shear zones such as jet streams, near frontal boundaries, near mountain ranges or thunderstorms. Always has and always will and if a previous aircraft on the same route misses the rough stuff, or does not bother to report it (very bad form) an unsuspecting follower can bang right into it without any warning. These unfortunates were likely flight attendants, passengers standing in the aisles stretching their legs, waiting in line for the lavs or sitting without their seat belts fastened. Then, a climate "scientist" stated that these incidents "will become more common with climate change" and that this incident was evidence of that. The holes in this statement are truly breathtaking. He is saying, in effect, that if we all turn off our gas BBQs, people will stop hitting their heads on aircraft cabin ceilings. Connecting climate change with CAT injuries is completely fallacious, ignoring the fact that the amount of aircraft in the sky has increased dramatically since the whole climate change thing started thereby increasing the chances of serious CAT encounters. In 2006, the year of Al Gore's acting debut, 2.1 billion people were carried. By 2016, only a decade later, and the latest year that the ICAO has numbers, 3.7 billion passengers flew. The math works out to...um...a very much larger number of airplanes in the sky daily, even if we assume there are, on average, 200 passengers on every aircraft. This "scientist" also ommitted the possibility that the aircraft could've run into the wingtip vortices or jet wash from another in close proximity. This can happen on any airway but occurred often while flying in the North Atlantic Track System (NATS) where aircraft now fly with just 1000 ft. separation. It happened to me over the ocean several times and hits like a hammer out of a clear sky.
Anything to frighten people needlessly about "climate change" these days qualifies as news.
Shame on them.
Speaking of seatbelts, wear them...ALL the time while seated. I noted on a recent flight that my wife (who is about 5'2") while seated, had a distance of less than two feet from the top of her head to the luggage bins above. This dimension changed only slightly when standing in the aisle. Rather than "plunge 500 ft!", all the airplane has to do is drop that short distance at a rate that is less than zero "G" and you, dear friend, are on the ceiling. Going up with sufficient force is dangerous enough but it's the coming down again that usually does the damage. So if you think wearing your seatbelt when the seat belt sign is off is not cool, just ask the bleeding passengers from that CAT incident.
Until next time, over 'n out.