Navigating Turbulence: Understanding and Preventing Injuries on Aircraft

airplane in sky

On a recent flight bound for Singapore, passengers were thrust into a harrowing situation when the aircraft encountered unexpected severe turbulence. The violent movements and rapid loss of altitude created chaos on board, ultimately forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. Several passengers sustained injuries, ranging from minor bruises to more serious trauma, drawing attention
to the dangers posed by in-flight turbulence.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of understanding the types of injuries that can occur during turbulence and the measures that can be taken to prevent them.


What Types of Injuries Can Occur During Turbulence?

Sudden drops in altitude can throw passengers upwards while the aircraft drops, causing them to hit the overhead compartments, then fall back to their seats or to the floor. These impacts can cause head injuries such as concussions, scalp lacerations, and even internal bleeding in the brain.

Sudden vertical movements can also cause compression and axial loading forces on the neck and spine, resulting in vertebral fractures and spinal cord injuries. Some of the passengers on this flight were seen lying motionless on the floor, suspected of having either spinal or limb injuries.

Uncontrolled sudden movement of the head can also result in neck injuries, including whiplash. If passengers were not seated with their seat belts fastened, they could sustain direct impacts with objects like seats and other cabin structures, resulting in injuries to the limbs such as forearm, wrist, hip, and knee fractures. Finally, loose objects like pens, laptops, and stationery can become projectiles and cause injury.


How Can We Prevent Injuries Like This from Happening?

In this case, there was apparently no way of anticipating the turbulence that was encountered. The best thing to do is to prepare for situations like this by taking these fairly simple steps. Before flying, prepare for the possibility of extreme turbulence and mentally visualise what you would do in such a situation.

Wear comfortable, loose clothing, comfortable shoes, and avoid wearing large or sharp jewelry so that assuming a brace position will be relatively easy. During the flight, if turbulence is encountered, keep your seat belt on and fastened securely. This will prevent ejection from the seat and limit uncontrolled movements.

Follow the crew’s instructions quickly; for example, if they tell you to return to your seats and fasten your seat belts, do so as quickly as possible. Do not leave loose items lying around that could act as projectiles.

Finally, maintaining a brace position by placing your head on your knees and your hands behind your head can help limit injury to the head and neck. If you find it too difficult to get into a brace position, it would be better to sit as far back in the seat as possible against the headrest to minimise neck movements and reduce the risk of whiplash.



It is important to be aware of the injuries that can occur during in-flight turbulence and how to
prevent these injuries. Both passengers and airline crew play crucial roles in ensuring safety during a flight. Following this incident, airlines have also introduced improved safety measures for passengers, and it is essential that passengers remember to adhere to these protocols for their own safety.