Catastrophic Turbulence: A Sad Reality For Modern Aviation

May 27, 2024

It's been headlining all over the world- 3 cases of turbulence causing critical injuries in just a span of less than a week. And it's definitely not the last.

On Tuesday (May 21), a 16.3 year old Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (9V-SWM) suffered extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar during meal service, throwing passengers and other items up in the air. A 73 year old British man which was suffering from a heart condition passed away in a suspected heart attack while 104 other passengers were injured with 20 of them in intensive care. These passengers suffered injuries such as fractures to the vertebrae and skull, and internal damage to the brain or spinal cord. This incident is the second fatal incident in Singapore Airlines' history following SQ006 in 2000.

On May 26th, a 3.4 year old Qatar Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (A7-BHM) experienced severe turbulence over Turkey resulting in injuries to 6 passengers and 6 crew members. The aircraft was travelling on a routine sector from Doha to Dublin and landed safely at its final destination, as scheduled.

Around the same time, a 8.9 year old Turkish Airlines Airbus A321-200 (TC-JSU) experienced severe turbulence en route from Istanbul to Izmir. While no passengers suffered serious injuries, a crew member suffered from a broken spine after being thrown to the ceiling during the turbulence event.

One thing common in all of these incidents is the presence of a type of turbulence called Clear Air Turbulence (CAT). Now, what exactly is this? The definition of CAT is the turbulent movement of air masses in the absence of any visual clues such as clouds, caused when bodies of air moving at widely different speeds meet. Due to the absence of visual cues, CAT is nearly impossible to anticipate with a conventional radar until its too late. This led to all of these catastrophic turbulence events with countless injuries as CAT cannot be predicted in time to turn on the seatbelt sign before it hits.

However, CAT is not something new. It was first noted in the 1940s and has been plaguing aviation ever since. Then, you may ask, why are all these catastrophic turbulence events becoming more frequent lately? Well, 2023 was the warmest year ever recorded and the same will probably apply for 2024. Due to climate change and global warming, temperatures all around the world are increasing. These increasing temperatures have shown to lead to an increase in cases of severe turbulence, leaving many critically injured- such as the 3 incidents that have occurred in the past week.

Although airlines cannot do much to stop CAT from occurring, several airlines such as Singapore Airlines are making changes to their turbulence guidelines such as no meal service while the seatbelt sign is on. Previously, this restriction only applied to the service of hot beverages. Additionally, their current policy of crew members securing all loose items and equipment during poor weather conditions would continue.

© 2024 Planeopedia LLP
Written by: Sohail Sawlani
All Rights Reserved
UEN: T23LL0860H


- Simple Flying
- Wikipedia
- JetPhotos
- Saif Zaman (Unsplash)


Click to share this article with your friends, or family!

Feedback Form

Have any feedback or suggestions for Planeopedia? Click below to fill out a feedback form!

Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel!

At our Youtube channel, we release aviation-related videos regularly. Do make sure to check it out and subscribe to get notified when we release new content.

Follow us on Instagram!

Ensure to check out our Instagram page for some beautiful airplane photographs!

Follow us on X!

Check out our Twitter/X to get the latest aviation news in your feed!

Follow us on Facebook!

Check out our Facebook to get the latest aviation news in your feed!

Follow us on TikTok!

Check out our TikTok to watch interesting aviation content!