Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:35
Dear Captain Lim,
This website of yours is of great information to all of us flying enthusiasts and for people who have fear of flying. I have one question regarding this:
Does the Boeing 737-800/900 series handle turbulence better than the Airbus A320 in case of a thunderstorm? Which is better to fly when you are in a thunderstorm?
I have flown on the Airbus A320 four times and on a Boeing 737-800 only once. Once while landing in Dammam Saudi Arabia on an Airbus A320, we encountered severe turbulence in a sandstorm. While flying on a Boeing 737-800, there was not much turbulence but just mild buffeting. I think the pilot was good.
Well, I really miss the Boeing 747-400 as I have flown zillions of times on this aircraft. All pilots forums should make a recommendation to airlines all over the world to bring this aircraft back into the air as many airlines today are scrapping them for Airbus A380/Boeing 777. I have never encountered even mild buffeting on Boeing 747-400.
Your answer for my above question will surely help me reduce my fears as both Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 are wonderful aircraft.
You are right to say that the Boeing 747-400 takes turbulence better. The first plane with winglets was introduced in 1989 but most airlines today would like to replace them with more fuel-efficient planes. So no amount of recommendations or suggestions is likely to get the airlines to reintroduce this plane notwithstanding its more comfortable ride in turbulence.
One basic fact – in severe turbulence, both planes would be equally uncomfortable to be on. As far as the pilot is concerned, he would avoid the thunderstorms as far as possible, reduce the speed just like you would do when driving on a road with bumps and switch on the seatbelt signs. So there isn’t much skills required of him except to have some foresight.
For comparison sake, it is sometimes quite difficult to say which is better - the Boeing 737-800 or Airbus A320. The only way to ‘measure’ it is to test both planes under the same conditions and this is not easy. Some say the Boeing 737 with winglets is better whilst others prefer the Airbus A320 because it has a device known as the Load Alleviation Function which supposedly is meant to ‘soften’ the turbulence.
Also, the smoothness or discomfort of the ride would depend on where you sit on the plane and the severity of the turbulence. The further you are from the centre of gravity the greater the moment. Hence the aft section is often more uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, turbulence is not to be feared as it is an issue of discomfort and not a question of safety. Just make sure you are securely fastened with your seat belts when told to do so and and you should be fine.
PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim