A survival guide for nervous flyers

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Approx read: 3 mins

Myth-busters and tips to make a bumpy ride smoother

Ever been cruising along on a flight, feeling like a champion for conquering your inner fear of being 36,000 feet above sea level, then BAM! The plane hits a patch of air that feels like it just dropped out of the sky. That, my friend, is turbulence.

It’s the Darth Vader of air travel, the monster under the bed of nervous flyers everywhere. But fear not; here’s the lowdown on turbulence, debunking myths and giving you tips to survive (and even conquer) that feeling of dread when those bumpy bits happen.

Why planes hit turbulence

Imagine Earth is a giant, spinning pizza. The crust (land) moves fastest at the equator, just like the outer edge of the pizza spins the quickest. This spin creates air currents that whoosh upwards, especially near the equator. Now picture these fast-moving air currents venturing out, like explorers on a mission and as they travel, they bump into slower-moving air. This mixing of air speeds is akin to creating a pothole in the sky that your plane might, or might not, travel through. That’s turbulence!

Why planes feel bumps more than balloons

Here’s an analogy that helps: imagine a journey in a hot air balloon, gently rising and gliding through the sky. You might barely notice the bumpy air because the balloon moves at the same speed as the air around it. Airplanes, on the other hand, are like speeding cars. They race through the sky and feel the bumps much more intensely. It’s like the difference between carefully inching your vehicle over a speed bump and hitting it at highway speeds – ouch!

Turbulence tamers: how pilots dodge bumpy skies

Pilots aren’t just there to look cool in their uniforms (although, let’s face it, they do) – they’re also turbulence tamers. When they meet bumpy air, they report it to air traffic control, creating a sky-based group chat known as PIREPs (Pilots Reports) to warn other captains and first officers. Think of it as a giant ‘heads up, bumpy road ahead’ sign in the air.

Then there is Turbulence Aware, a platform that collects existing flight data from airlines, cleans it up to ensure accuracy, and securely transmits it back to airlines allowing access to real-time turbulence reports, improving awareness for pilots and potentially creating smoother flights.

Additionally, modern airplanes are equipped with high-tech turbulence detectors that act like air ninjas, sensing rough patches ahead. This intel is then beamed to the pilot, allowing them to adjust their flight path and dodge the worst of the turbulence. Pretty cool, right?

After all, soaring above the clouds and witnessing the world shrink beneath you is pretty darn magical, even if it comes with a few jiggles. Besides, the physics and math of how to construct modern airplanes to manage turbulence regularly and with ease has been sorted. They’re like high-flying tanks, engineered to take on even the bumpiest patches of air.

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Tips for conquering your fear of turbulence

Okay, so turbulence isn’t the smoothest experience, but here’s the good news: it’s a normal part of flying, and serious injuries are exceedingly rare. That’s said, here are some tips to minimise the impact and make your flight a breeze:

Be a seat belt superhero

Turbulence can be unpredictable, so keep your seat belt fastened – even when the sign is off. It’s your in-flight safety shield and part of the safety information. So take it from the pros: stay belted in.

Pick the perfect perch

Just like the middle of a seesaw moves the least, the smoothest part of an airplane is usually over the wings. When booking your seat, try to snag a spot in this area for a calmer ride.

Breathe easy

Feeling anxious? Take some deep breaths. Focusing on your breathing can help calm your nerves and make the turbulence feel less intense. There’s also your healthy option to do some (seated and belted-in) mild exercise during flight. Set an alarm and focus on keeping yourself limber and calm.

Distract Yourself: Download a fun movie, listen to calming music, or get lost in a good book. Distracting yourself can take your mind off the bumps and make the flight time whizz by.

Remember, turbulence is just a temporary blip on your sky faring adventure. By understanding what causes it and using these tips you can transform those bumpy bits into minor inconveniences and focus on what waits at the end of your flight. So, buckle up, breathe deep, and get ready for a smooth (or at least smoother) journey.

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