Home Asean News Buckle Up, Warn Pilots, Crew After Turbulence Kills Singapore Airlines Passenger

Buckle Up, Warn Pilots, Crew After Turbulence Kills Singapore Airlines Passenger

"Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it," said a passenger.
A representational photo of the Boeing 777-300ER.

CHICAGO: Buckle up. Use seatbelts when seated. That is the message from flight attendants and pilots after severe turbulence killed a passenger aboard a Singapore Airlines flight.

The London-to-Singapore flight hit heavy turbulence over the Indian Ocean and descended 6,000 feet (around 1,800 meters) in about three minutes, before an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines did not say what type of turbulence was involved. But aviation experts suspect it to be clear-air turbulence, considered the most dangerous type of turbulence.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is virtually undetectable with current technology, and can hit without warning. This makes it all the more important for passengers to wear seatbelts whenever seated, safety experts said.

Airlines are required by law to switch on the seatbelt sign during takeoff and landing of flights. But carriers have their own procedures to deal with mid-air turbulence.

A witness on the Singapore Airlines flight said numerous people not wearing seatbelts were thrown around the cabin when the plane dipped, with many hitting their heads.

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Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants,  said CAT instances are on the rise and cannot be seen, stressing the importance of being buckled during flight.

“It is a matter of life and death,” Nelson said.

Turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type of accident, a 2021 study by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said.

Most recently, in March, a Boeing 787 plane operated by LATAM Airlines dropped abruptly mid-flight, causing injuries to more than 50 people.

Aerospace safety expert Anthony Brickhouse said passengers need to minimize their movement on flights and always stay buckled in, regardless of the seatbelt light.

American Airlines requires its pilots to turn the seatbelt sign on and instruct passengers and flight attendants to sit immediately when turbulence is severe.

Flight attendants then have to remain seated until notified by the flight’s captain or the seatbelt sign is turned off. Other airlines have similar protocols.

Some pilots and attendances say that leaving a seatbelt sign on throughout the flight would backfire – as passengers would start to ignore it.

“The seatbelt sign means something, and if you leave it on all the time, it means nothing,” said Dennis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association.

“Everyone will just say it’s a sign that doesn’t mean anything.”


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In a career spanning over three decades and counting, I’ve been the Foreign Editor of The Telegraph, Outlook Magazine and The New Indian Express. I helped set up rediff.com’s editorial operations in San Jose and New York, helmed sify.com, and was the founder editor of India.com.

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