Air Turbulence Article & FAA Fact sheet reflect old practices

faa fact sheet air turbulence
Share this article: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Air Turbulence Injuries

SMS problem-solving creates more immediate and more effective tactics.

On Wednesday, April 19, 2017 the FAA issued a press release entitled Attention Passengers: Sit Down and Buckle Up. USAToday read the information provided and published the above headline. Here’s the primary quote:

The 44 injuries in 2016 compared to 21 in 2015, the FAA announced Wednesday. During the last 15 years, the lowest total was 12 in 2006 and the highest was 107 in 2009, according to FAA.

The primary message of the governmental information released is what an individual can do to minimize the risks, while the news report devotes 11 paragraphs to a parade of horribles with only 42 words about the need for wearing a seat belt at all times.

While that journalistic sensationalism is a bit disappointing, it is disturbing that there is no mention of whether the airlines have been given these numbers to address how they might further reduce these incidents.

air turbulence research

The FAA, for a lot of safety substantive reasons, has moved its focus from learning from accidents and reacting with universally applicable regulations to collecting/analyzing data to work with the individual carriers to define how BEST to minimize the risk of these potential problems predicted by the numbers.

air turbulence injuries

Aircraft turbulence, particularly clear air, has identified as a source of injuries for years. Under the old reactive mode, the FAA has sponsored studies and issued lessons learned. Unfortunately, the problem persists. The April 19 Fact Sheet reflects that same approach with good information, primarily generated by the FAA staff and with tactics to be applied universally. Here are the two sets of recommendations (for passengers and for airlines) which reflect past practice:

  • “Listen to the flight attendants. Pay attention to the safety briefing at the beginning of your flight and read the safety briefing card.
  • Buckle up. Keep you and your family safe by wearing a seat belt at all times.
  • Use an approved child safety seat or device if your child is under two.
  • Prevent inflight injuries by adhering to your airline’s carry-on restrictions…


  • improve dispatch procedures by keeping communication channels open full-time;
  • include turbulence in weather briefings;
  • promote real-time information sharing between pilot and dispatcher;
  • reinforce the air carrier’s turbulence avoidance policy through dispatcher training;
  • consider rerouting using automation, atmospheric modeling, and data displays; and
  • use all applicable weather data as well as reporting and forecasting graphics.”

[the 2nd list was created by CAST]

air turbulent seatbelt study

All great advice—procedures and practices, but one of the benefits of SMS is that the decision process involves multiple perspectives and thus is more likely to identify practical solutions designed to fix the specific problems which a specific carrier faces. Another positive aspect of this collaborative rubric is that the diagonal slice participation has been a catalyst for creativity.

Hopefully behind the press release, the FAA SMS managers have flagged turbulence for their carriers. Such a referral to the folks who are there when an accident or incident occurs might result in some significant insight. They might suggest things like:

  • Putting a small indicator light on each seat to remind the passenger that their belt is not secured and to alert the cabin crew that the individual is not belted.
  • Making the belt more comfortable would increase the percentage of the time it is secured.
  • The crew believes that belts may be initially fastened but they tend to be undone, for example, after the movie.
  • ????

The others who participate in the SMS sessions could add to those perceptions by:

  • Telling the seat manufacturers to incorporate the lights on the next order of seats.
  • Initiating a study with the belt manufacturers to find more comfortable materials {maybe a less uncomfortable belt might reduce the passengers tension?}.
  • Tell the movie suppliers to close their movies with a reminder to BUCKLE UP!!
  • ???

These examples of ideas would be evaluated, prioritized and incorporated in the company’s safety improvement agenda.

The FAA has been working on this problem for years. By including the SMS problem-solving in resolution, simpler, more immediate and more effective tactics might be created.


FAA: Turbulence injuries jolt twice as many flights in 2016
Share this article: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Be the first to comment on "Air Turbulence Article & FAA Fact sheet reflect old practices"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.