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  Opinion   Edit  22 May 2024  AA Edit | Keep seatbelts on to be safe

AA Edit | Keep seatbelts on to be safe

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : May 23, 2024, 12:00 am IST
Updated : May 23, 2024, 12:00 am IST

Modern aviation remains safe despite turbulence incidents. Keeping seat belts fastened during flight can prevent injuries from turbulence

The chaotic scenes inside a London-Singapore flight of Singapore Airlines, with an impeccable safety record stretching to a quarter century as the last fatality on board occurred in the year 2000, may have been caused by an extraordinary drop of 6,000 feet in three minutes. (Representative Image: AFP)
 The chaotic scenes inside a London-Singapore flight of Singapore Airlines, with an impeccable safety record stretching to a quarter century as the last fatality on board occurred in the year 2000, may have been caused by an extraordinary drop of 6,000 feet in three minutes. (Representative Image: AFP)

“Seat belt signs are switched off. Please keep your seat belts fastened while seated” is a simple cautionary that all airlines transmit once aircraft reach their cruising height. Passengers invariably ignore the warning, which is why modern aviation, which is safer than crossing the street in Chennai or Karachi, gets a bad name as most injuries occur when aircraft hit unexpected turbulence, including clear air turbulence that is much harder to detect.

The chaotic scenes inside a London-Singapore flight of Singapore Airlines, with an impeccable safety record stretching to a quarter century as the last fatality on board occurred in the year 2000, may have been caused by an extraordinary drop of 6,000 feet in three minutes.

Passengers were said to be floating vertically into the lights above as well as horizontally with the flight possibly running into the fringes of a fast-developing tropical thunderstorm while flying over the Irrawaddy River basin in Myanmar before it made an emergency landing in Bangkok. The flight was already 30 miles off its projected path to avoid thunderstorms.

Wind shear is a nightmare at cruising altitudes while developing thunderstorms come with strong updraft, as a global weather forecaster explained. While the single fatality may have been caused by a cardiac event in an elderly passenger amid the chaos of the plane dropping freely, the airline’s stoic flying staff came in for high praise in handling the emergency.

The incident does not tar the passenger aviation safety record. It is still mathematically a very long shot — somewhere in the region of one in 11 million while the chances of a car crash may be one in 5,000 — for a flyer to be involved in an air crash. But a gigantic turbulence event like the one the Singapore flight suffered can cause jitters in poor flyers of whom there are millions around the world.

Passengers can give themselves a better chance by securing their own safety by keeping their seat belts buckled as injuries from turbulence-related events are the most common in aviation now. How do you explain that to flyers who have been fortunate in never having experienced a horribly bumpy flight thanks to higher flying standards of modern aviation though climate change and increased air traffic are thought to be contributing to rising incidence of air turbulence?

Tags: air safety regulations, airplane safety, seat belt warning