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Home > Air Turbulence > How do pilots deal with turbulence?
How do pilots deal with turbulence?
Weather - Air Turbulence
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 20:57

Greetings Capt Lim!

First I would like to say thank for your website. It is very informative. I am a frequent flyer as I am a business traveler and am on a plane every week. I normally fly on the Boeing 737 Series jets up and down the West Coast of the US.

My question is more general concerning turbulence, more specifically turbulence during initial decent and approach to the runway. How do pilots deal with this? I normally am not fearful however in these circumstances I feel my anxiety increasing.


Portland, Oregon.

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your interest on air turbulence. I know of many air travelers who told me of their great anxieties about air turbulence during flight, especially where they have no control over it.

Generally, pilots would inform passengers about the weather they would encounter during the descent and approach to the Runway. This would allow the passengers to anticipate the turbulence and calm any fears that they may have. Normally the 'Seat Belt Sign' would be switched on.

During descent on a cloudy day, one would expect some turbulence. Pilot makes use of the weather radar to avoid the most active areas of turbulence unless it is unavoidable due to other traffic (then you are in for a rough and uncomfortable ride !). As long as you are securely fastened, turbulence is nothing to worry about except for some discomfort (imagine yourself in a bus traveling on a road with lots of potholes!)

When approaching a runway with strong crosswinds over uneven terrain, or where wind shear (see my previous FAQ on this topic) is likely, turbulence also cause great anxieties to many passengers. Again, this may be uncomfortable but there are limits whereby the turbulence becomes a safety hazard. In this situation, pilots have been trained to abort the landings, divert to another suitable airport, or land on another Runway where there are no reported turbulence by other pilots.

In more advanced aircraft like the Boeing 777, there are aural warnings from the aircraft computers about any impending wind shears. Pilots would react to these warnings by aborting the landing.

In some modern airports, there are also ground equipment to warn pilots about low level wind shears (and turbulence) through the air traffic information service. Again, pilots would be cautious either to abort the landing or wait for the turbulence to subside before attempting a safe landing.

I hope I have been able to explain to you about turbulence during initial descent and approach to land.

Always have your seat belts tightly fastened during descent and landing and you should ride through any turbulence without any problems!

Hi Capt Lim,

Thanks for spending some time answering my question. You do a great service to air travelers who may not understand the "mechanics of flight." I will be sure to check back to your site for information on flying the Triple 7.



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New Delhi, India
Thanks a lot Captain. This is very useful information for my nerves.
Subho Chakrabarti , 02 Sep, 2012

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