Plane Rides May Get Less Bumpy, Thanks to New Anti-Turbulence Gear

As FareCompare has reported on several occasions, turbulence can come out of nowhere. And it can hurt you, though that’s rare and there are simple things you can do so that doesn’t happen. Now, more good news from the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney: Your odds of getting a bumpy flight are lower than ever, or so it seems.

Anti-Turbulence Sensors, Devices

As columnist McCartney reports, “Airlines are installing new weather technology that will give pilots a better picture of where there’s turbulence and where there’s smooth air.” The new gear includes:

  • Total Turbulence: American Airlines has been installing this WSI Corp. system on many of its Boeing and Airbus planes; it measures turbulence intensity and automatically relays to this information to controllers and other aircraft
  • MultiScan ThreatTrack: An onboard weather radar system from Rockwell Collins, the first of its type to show two levels of turbulence severe and “ride quality” which is explained as turbulence that is OK to fly through as long as everyone is seated and buckled up.
  • Water-vapor sensors: Southwest now has 87 planes equipped with these small sensors to help predict potentially dangerous storms and how long they’ll last.

What Passengers Can Do to Stay Safe

The article quotes a Southwest representative who believes the new technology has meant a 5 percent reduction in the “impact of weather events” which may well translate into fewer delays. But what if you’re not sure your plane  has any of this new high-tech gear?

Do what you’re always told: When in your seat, have your seat belt buckled tight. And remember how rare truly frightening turbulence is. As retired flight attendant Gary Taylor told FareCompare, he only experienced severe turbulence once in his 30+ year career with Delta and as Taylor put it, “Aircraft are built for extreme turbulence so you are safe – although you may be really, really scared.”

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Published: March 27, 2014