Friday night’s American Airlines Dallas – Buenos Aires hit severe turbulence. I heard that flight attendants hit the ceiling and that they were even hospitalized.
I asked American about the flight and spokesperson Casey Norton told me,
American Airlines flight 997 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Buenos Aires briefly encountered severe turbulence during its descent. The flight landed safely and was met by paramedics. Five flight attendants were transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. All passengers were safely deplaned and none reported injuries or requested medical evaluation.
Norton also let me know that “one flight attendant reported a possible shoulder injury. The others requested further evaluation out of an abundance of caution. The seat belt sign was illuminated at the time.”
I assume this explained the unusual flight path close to arrival.
Obviously this is unusual, but severe turbulence happens. Fortunately the seat belt sign was on at the time, and so passengers were presumably belted in. That prevented injury.
Most of the time severe turbulence comes with warning, either from other aircraft or because it isn’t completely sudden. That means the pilot has the opportunity to turn on the seat belt sign and warn passengers.
However severe turbulence does happen without warning. And while it isn’t usually a danger to the aircraft, it’s certainly a danger to passengers. That’s why it’s imperative to stay belted in even when the seat belt sign isn’t on.
It’s easy to forget incidents like Singapore Airlines SQ308 Singapore – London in mid-2013 where 11 passengers were injured and the plane’s ceiling was covered in coffee. Here are photos from that incident:
When the seat belt sign is on, wear your seat belt. When the seat belt sign is off, but you’re in your seat wear your seat belt. That advice isn’t helpful to the crew, since they have duties to perform even in many cases while the seat belt sign is illuminated.
So I wish the crew of AA997 a speedy recovery, and a thanks to the reserve crew who flew down to Buenos Aires to pick up the return trip that the Friday night’s flight attendants would have flown.