By Stacey Leasca
March 11, 2019
Fabian Sommer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

On Saturday, 30 people were reported injured after their Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to John F. Kennedy International Airport struck an unexpected patch of severe turbulence just 45 minutes prior to landing.

"There was like one or two seconds when it was subtle, but then it really started to pick up," passenger Amir Mehrbakhsh told the Associated Press. "... Just because the drop was so sudden, a lot of people got lifted up and hit their head either on the ceiling or on the side of the plane, and so there were a lot of injuries pretty quickly."

The plane stuck the violent turbulence as it flew over Maine. The National Weather Service, The Weather Channel reported, had issued pilot advisories on Saturday warning of expected rough air.

According to Steve Coleman, spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 28 of the injured people were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens. Two went to Queens Hospital Medical Center, including a flight attendant who suffered a broken leg.

“Nobody announced it or anything like that so we figured out something was wrong,” passenger Sead Nikaj additionally told ABC News. “Then I see people start flying on the plane. Then seeing blood all over. I had one of the ladies next to me, she really fell down from her seat on the floor and all her back was completely bloody, while someone that was working in the airplane, she cracked her leg I think completely.”

Turkish Airlines issued a statement regarding the flight that carried 326 passengers and 18 crew members saying in part that the plane “encountered unusual turbulence about 40 minutes before landing.” It added that it is “deeply saddened by this unfortunate experience, and closely monitors the health status of injured passengers, and is making resources available to them.”

Severe turbulence like the one experienced by this Turkish Airlines flight is only expected to increase over the coming years thanks to climate change.

Paul D. Williams, a professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, U.K., wrote in a 2017 research paper, "The prevalence of transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence will increase significantly in all aviation-relevant strength categories as the climate changes.”

According to Forbes, which analyzed Williams’ findings, severe turbulence is expected to increase by several hundred percent in the airspace over North America, Europe, and the North Pacific by mid-century. Severe turbulence is also expected to rise 149 percent in the North Atlantic flight corridor.

Here’s the good news: Turbulence is normal and a plane will not crash due to turbulence.

“A plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket,” pilot Patrick Smith wrote on his site, AskThePilot.com. “Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash.”

Pilots are used to it, they are trained for it, and they can get you through it. The only thing they ask is that you please wear your seatbelt at all times. This way, if you do hit rough air you’ll be safely strapped to your seat. And, if you do happen to get anxious with turbulence, try this little trick to stay calm as you move through the bumps in the sky.

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