I have an extreme fear of flying (mainly from turbulence). For every trip I plan, I always make sure to check the plane's route ahead and see which areas we are passing.
I'm planning a trip from Doha, Qatar to Singapore. The plane will pass exactly above Bay of Bengal which as far as the stories I have heard and read in many articles, is the worst place you wanna fly above. People are mentioning extreme turbulence and plane drops when passing over this area.
My main concerns are:
1. Is the Bay of Bengal a dangerous place? How safe it is?
2. Is it true about the extreme turbulence over this bay?
3. Do you have any tips or assuring information to help me get over this fear?
It is good that you check the route prior to your flight. This will give you an idea of how your journey would be like. In fact you can also have an idea of whether the Bay of Bengal area would be cloudy by looking at this satellite Image here. When it is cloudy, it means that your flight may be bumpy.
It is generally true that the Bay of Bengal would be fairly shaky during the monsoon period. That said, there is nothing to be fearful of flying in turbulence. This is a natural weather phenomena just like if you have to sail on the ocean during the stormy weather.
Turbulence would not cause the plane to crash. It is the annoyance and discomfort one experience in it. As long as you obey the captain’s request to have your seat belt fasten, you are in good hands. The body structure of a plane is incredibly strong and the wings can stand up to 150 per cent of the strongest force that it can encounter in flight. (See how they tested the strength of the Boeing 787 wing in the video below) The plane is generally designed to survive a crash, and experiencing the bumps of turbulence is nothing in comparison!
As Captain Sully, the hero of the Hudson River crash said, the next time you're riding as a passenger in a car, you should close your eyes and monitor the frequency and intensity of every bump, jolt, vibration and noise. The average car ride is much more turbulent than the average flight.
Airplanes are designed, engineered and maintained to sustain the worst turbulence. Pilots are trained to avoid and manage them. The bottom line? You're safer in a plane than you would be in a car.
My answer to your questions:-
1. The Bay of Bengal is not a dangerous air space to fly over. It depends on the season. I have flown over it smoothly many times and I have done some ‘roller coaster rides’ over the Bay at other times. Pilots would always try to avoid or deviate from the most turbulent part of the route. If is safe even if it could not be avoided totally.
2. Extreme turbulence is only encountered if the pilot does not avoid the most intense part of the weather. All pilots are generally train to take the necessary precaution when encountering bad weather.
3. Tips to get over your fears are knowledge. Knowledge is the antidote of fear. Knowing that the wings would not snap in turbulence, the wing tips would flex a little (they are designed to do so) and that the plane would shake a bit inside the clouds help. The more you know of what to expect, the easier it will be for you to stay calm.
You need to know that flying is really safe. For anything that can go wrong, there is a plan to deal with it. As Capt Tom Bunn, one of the top gurus on fear of flying says,
“The most difficult part of the flight is turbulence, because you are hitting one bump after another after another. And you can’t keep up with it cognitively, so we have to help the mind not to release stress hormones. If you are absolutely sure you are safe, you can eliminate stress hormones.”
You can download his Free G-Force Meter here to check on the severity of air turbulence. This Apps allows you to measure the G-force of turbulence on a plane, in order to reassure yourself that it is within a safe range - and in most cases, there is nothing to worry about when you look at the G-Force reading!. The plane does not drop hundred of feet as some claim!
If you like what you read, more stories are found in my book LIFE IN THE SKIES (Preview here) and you can purchase a copy here. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim or Facebook here