Five crew members were seriously injured when British Airways flight BA12 to London suffered some of the worst turbulence the airline had experienced in years last Thursday. The flight was forced to return to its departure destination, Singapore, and some crew members even required hospital treatment. The incident comes as the scientific community continues to highlight the growing threat turbulence will pose in the coming years.
British Airways crew seriously injured extreme turbulence
Flight BA12 departed from Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN) at around 11:20pm on Thursday 15 June, bound for London Heathrow Airport (LHR), just 4 hours after takeoff and was forced to return to Singapore shortly after passing Andaman Sea.
The aircraft was affected by a storm in the area and was therefore affected by severe, persistent turbulence. The massive force of the turbulence injured five BA crew, including a staff member who suffered a concussion and a flight attendant who required surgery for an ankle injury.
Severe turbulence and injuries to the crew left the pilot with no choice but to abort the flight before flying over the Indian Ocean’s Bay of Bengal and returning to Singapore; the plane returned to its departure destination around 4 a.m. local time on Friday. After landing, the injured crew members were transferred to a local hospital for treatment, and passengers were accommodated in hotels and booked on alternate flights.
The Boeing 777-300ER plane was grounded for further inspection of any structural damage to the plane; it was finally cleared to fly to the UK on Saturday without any passengers on board.
A British Airways spokesperson said at the time:
“Safety is always our top priority and we are taking care of our cabin crew after one of our flights experienced rare severe turbulence. Our well-trained on-board team reassures customers that the aircraft is returning to Singapore as a precautionary measure.”
turbulence – Is the worst yet to come?
The main causes of clear-air turbulence are wind shear (defined as sudden changes in wind speed and direction) and changes in jet streams that affect aircraft motion and altitude and make proper flight control more difficult. Members of the scientific community continue to highlight the dangers of increased turbulence and how climate change will continue to exacerbate this threat.
While turbulence is not uncommon on flights, mild turbulence (defined as an ascent or descent of approximately 3.5 feet that is barely perceptible to passengers) and moderate turbulence (defined as an ascent or descent of approximately 10-20 feet), can cause Spilled drinks, severe turbulence (ascent or descent up to 100 feet) pose a significant risk of injury to passengers and crew, especially those not wearing seatbelts.
In December, for example, a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Honolulu, Hawaii, encountered severe turbulence shortly before landing, resulting in reported injuries including bruises, cuts and severe head injuries. The incident was later blamed on thunderstorms in the area at the time.
In addition to the safety implications of worsening turbulence highlighted above, the aviation industry needs to prepare for significant financial and logistical consequences, including more frequent structural damage to aircraft, increased flight cancellations, and the risk of avoiding certain scenarios. Routes and areas are included in the flight plan.
Were you affected by the extreme turbulence of flight BA12 last week? Have you experienced extreme turbulence in flight? Let us know in the comments!