'Pandemonium' reported on turbulent flight

Federal safety officials looking into incident that left 5 injured
Associated Press
Feb 18, 2014


A crew member remained hospitalized Tuesday after violent turbulence triggered "pandemonium" aboard a United Airlines flight into Billings and sent passengers and crew flying through the cabin, according to company representatives and a man who was on board.

Passenger Ejay Old Bull said drinks had just been served and passengers were moving around the cabin on the flight from Denver when the plane started to lurch violently with no prior warning, approximately 55 minutes into the hour-and-a-half flight.

"It was a solid 20 seconds of pandemonium," said Old Bull, a 26-year-old graduate student who was returning to school at Billings' Rocky Mountain College. "What really hurt people and what really got everyone panicked was when the plane tipped to the right and dropped for about four or five seconds. That's when people started praying."

Old Bull said he watched his unrestrained seatmate crash headfirst into the overhead luggage bin and briefly lose consciousness. Meanwhile, a crew member was bouncing around in the galley just behind his seat, Old Bull said.

Federal safety officials said they were looking into the incident that left three crew members and two passengers injured.

No details were available on the condition of the female crew member who remained hospitalized. United spokeswoman Christen David said an airline supervisor was by her side at the hospital.

The Boeing 737-300 involved has been taken out of service while the airline reviews what happened, David said.

"Our flight safety investigators are working closely with the NTSB to analyze the flight data," she said in an emailed response to questions.

Flight 1676 encountered the unusually rough turbulence Monday afternoon while flying over Wyoming at an altitude of 34,000 feet, authorities said.

Old Bull said that when the plane finally quieted, he saw a frightened-looking man poke his head out the door of a nearby restroom and then crawl out, clutching at an armrest to keep his balance.

Passenger Joe Frank, 20, told The Denver Post in an email that the plane dropped violently and he heard a loud bang. He said a baby was propelled out of a parent's arms and landed in a seat nearby, but the infant didn't appear to be hurt.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said the agency was gathering details on the severity of injuries and whether there was any damage to the aircraft. That information will determine if a full-scale investigation is warranted, said NTSB spokesman Terry Williams.

During the last decade about 33 people annually were injured during turbulence on airplanes, with crew members suffering most of the injuries, according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Turbulence is caused by air movements created by weather events such as thunderstorms, cold or warm fronts and air moving around mountains, according to the FAA. It can occur unexpectedly and when the sky appears clear.

Authorities say staying buckled up is one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries.



Stop It

"Authorities say staying buckled up is one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries."

>sarcasm< Heh...Seatbelts on a plane make as much sense as having them on motorcycles. Just make 'em wear padding and helmets. >/sarcasm< Seriously though, if the plane is gonna crash a seatbelt is worthless.

No Wake

Did you read the part where people were injured by being thrown around the plane from turbulence? The plane didn't crash, yet unrestrained people were injured.

Stop It

Yeah, I did read the whole article. All that will happen from this will be lawsuits. We can't be having people banging around like BB's in a soda-pop can.

Still, a seatbelt would be worthless in a crash scenario. Are you suggesting that everyone remained buckled in through the whole flight?

Ralph J.

I once was a passenger on a plane that got into some turbulence. Think about NASA and those planes that create weightlessness. Without a seat belt, I would float up. I once did an experiment with a coin on Cedar Point's Magnum roller coaster. The coin in my hand floated up in the air and was gone.

Stop It

The Demon Drop. I did the same trick, but caught it before it got away.


The coin didn't "float up". You dropped as part of a system. The coin was not part of the system and momentarily remained in the original position due to it's inertia. The coin merely appeared to float up. It's physics....


It's all relative. Frames of reference. Ralph's explanation might be as good as yours, depending on how narrowly you want to define "float." It's not always physics...

And the coin was no less a part of the system than the planet it fell to, because Ralph was tethered to the car which was tethered to the rails which were tethered to that same planet. I think. "StopIt" caught his coin. Did it leave the system and return? Pretty sure you should rethink the "momentarily remained in the original position" characterization, in any event.

Good point, though, Perfess'r.

My beer's empty.


It's always physics.


Can't do anything about Clear Air Turbulance.


They're working on it. Doppler lidar.