Plane crash as a result of turbulence

Can a plane crash because of air holes?

To begin with, no, it has been more than 40 years since an airplane was so badly distressed by turbulence that it crashed. It is therefore unlikely nowadays that an airplane will crash due to air pockets or the like. Of course, the effects are clearly noticeable in the aircraft and passengers can sometimes be injured, as there have already been flights where the aircraft sank several hundred meters and thus unbelted passengers injured themselves or even hand luggage flying around led to injuries. But these were always minor injuries. Due to safety mechanisms, pilots often detect air pockets at an early stage and give the instruction that passengers must fasten their seat belts. First rule, therefore, when it comes to avoiding injuries from turbulence: Always follow instructions from the flight crew. Do not argue and support the flight attendants with their behavior on board the aircraft.

Plane crash as a result of turbulence

Can an airplane flip over in turbulence?

Even if some have felt heavy turbulence and these air holes feel extremely threatening, they hardly endanger the safety and stability of the aircraft. However, it cannot tip over or be overturned, not even by extreme crosswinds. The aircraft is designed to fly safely even in extremely adverse conditions. Also, the pilots are trained and can always take action to defuse the situation in such situations. However, these air turbulence and also crosswinds feel extremely dangerous during landings and passengers are also often actually shaken here. What you can also observe during turbulence, provided that you sit at the window near the wings, that the wings move a lot. But don't worry, the airplanes can withstand it, no wing has broken off yet and be sure: Even if you think it is the worst turbulence, an airplane has certainly mastered much heavier ones without problems. Calm yourself in the airplane, trust in the training of pilots and decades of experience of the industry in designing, building and maintaining aircraft.

The belts protect

Which, however, is already a real danger when flying: Not wearing a seat belt in an airplane can not only be uncomfortable for passengers in the event of sudden turbulence, but can also pose a risk of injury. If the aircraft sinks, the body becomes an inert mass and then naturally hits the cabin ceiling head first with full force. This is not far away due to the cramped conditions. This is almost fortunate, as the impact is not particularly strong. Despite the injury-preventing design, hitting the cabin ceiling in this way can be quite painful and even lead to head wounds. This is completely unnecessary, as it should not be a problem to fasten your seat belt during the trip. Also, when the signal to buckle up comes, don't be particularly slow, because the signal is not given on a whim, but because the pilots are anticipating an event immediately. Especially when they want to sleep or snooze, they should be buckled up in any case. Here you can easily overlook a seat belt sign and any movements of the aircraft then come as a great surprise.

Compensation in the event of turbulence

In the event of turbulence, travelers and baggage can suffer damage for which compensation is eligible. In principle, the Montreal Convention regulates liability for international flights and sets a two-year preclusion period for claims for damages. The liability limits are 100,000 Special Drawing Rights per traveler for death or bodily injury and 1,000 Special Drawing Rights for baggage. Damage to hand luggage is compensated only if the air carrier is clearly at fault. EC Regulation 2027/97 has adopted the liability rules of the Montreal Convention for the entire EU territory, including domestic flights. Liability claims can be directed against the contracting or operating air carrier, or the tour operator in the case of package tours. However, there is a certain risk in a flight due to turbulence, for example, if you were not strapped in and injured yourself as a result, it will be difficult with compensation, because here is own fault. Only a specialized lawyer can provide reliable information in detail.

Where is the safest place to sit in turbulence?

The best place is definitely strapped in. Apart from that, the place with the least impact in turbulence is near the wings. This is where the aircraft's center of gravity is and where the effects of pitching or leaning are felt the least. This is where there is the least amount of vibration. If you feel sick quickly, ask the staff to assist you and know who to look after if turbulence occurs. Especially if they can't get a seat near the wings. Small fact on the side: airplanes are less vulnerable to storms and turbulence than ships are to high waves. Should this idea give them some reassurance in the event.

Turbulence frequency

According to studies, climate change will cause the winds to change in such a way that more air pockets are to be expected. So air travel will become more turbulent. The increasing instability will also pose challenges for aircraft manufacturers, but there are already many devices on board that can detect such air pockets at an early stage, giving pilots the opportunity to navigate the flight in such a way that the danger is minimized. In general, turbulence occurs frequently, more so on intercontinental flights, but here the probability calculation almost applies, who is longer in the air, has a higher probability simply because of the flight hours. Of course, there are areas where turbulence occurs more frequently, but the airlines have this under control and choose the route accordingly.

How dangerous are turbulences?

In terms of crashes, turbulence is hardly dangerous, but the far greater danger in turbulence is for passengers to hit their heads on hard edges and injure themselves due to the violent movements. Particularly if passengers are not strapped in, air pockets can lead to a sharp drop in altitude and, as a result, passengers who are not strapped in can hit the ceiling of the cabin or not be able to reach their seats when they "land" and suffer bruises on the side of the seat. Hand luggage flying around can also cause injuries. Therefore, always stow carry-on luggage securely in the storage compartments provided and always keep your seat belt fastened.

Danger of wind shear during landing

When aircraft enter wind shear areas, they are delayed in adapting to the sudden change in wind direction and strength. Horizontal wind shears are created by gaps in hill ranges and large rows of buildings or as a result of microbursts. These pose a hazard to aircraft taking off and landing near the ground in the vicinity of airports. Examples of accidents due to shear winds include Martinair Flight 495, Lufthansa Flight 2904, and Delta Air Lines Flight 191. The investigation of the Delta flight led to intensive research and early detection of shear winds. Today, they can be detected in part by ground-based Doppler radar or LIDAR, but on board they are usually detected by the Ground Proximity Warning System only upon entry. So here, too, the rule is: keep your seat belt fastened. However, seat belts are mandatory during takeoff and landing anyway, so fewer injuries occur here due to passengers not wearing seat belts.


Even if the perceived danger of a crash endangers one's life the most, the small dangers of everyday situations are on the one hand more frequent and also more immediately dangerous. Therefore, always pay attention to the safety on board an aircraft. Even if the weather is clear and the flight is calm, this can change quickly. The airplanes are at high altitudes with high speeds on the way, here already because of the speed something can change quickly and become a danger. If you are unsure, contact the staff and always follow the instructions.

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Frequently asked questions

Can a plane crash because of turbulence?
No, commercial aircraft are designed and built with great safety reserves. A ship at sea is more at risk from high waves than an airplane in the air from air masses.