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Home > Air Turbulence > Is there any danger of being locked in the lavatory during turbulence?
Is there any danger of being locked in the lavatory during turbulence?
Weather - Air Turbulence
Wednesday, 30 November 2005 22:56

Hi Captain Lim,

Many, many thanks for your web page. By responding so diligently to these questions, you have helped to dispel much fear and anxiety associated with flying. Here are my questions:

1. Is there any danger to being locked in the lavatory during a turbulence encounter? This happened to me once during moderate turbulence and I was wondering what would happen in more dire circumstances. I*d presume that the lavatory was designed in such a way as to minimize the risk of injury during abrupt plane movements, though I*m curious for your opinion.

2. In thunderstorm activity, usually how long do updrafts and downdrafts last? I was once caught in severe turbulence (large changes in altitude, attitude, and roll) and I heard the captain revving the engines (perhaps to avoid flameout from the water ingestion/hail). I'm trying to understand, after the fact of course, whether this was updraft or downdraft, which seem to be a rather serious weather phenomenon.

Can updrafts literally lift a plane up 1000 feet in a matter of seconds?

3. I have also found this
web page - that has turbulence forecasts. Are the Pilot Reports (PIREPS) a good indicator of whether or not I would experience turbulence on a route on a given day?

P.S. Because of all the reading I*ve done on the matter (and your website), I have a new and very deep respect for the pilot profession!


Hi Peter,

1. Yes, the lavatory is designed with handles for the passenger to grip onto in the event of unforeseen turbulence. If caught in this predicament, hold on to the handles till the bumpiness subsides then return to your seat and secure yourself with the seat belt immediately. You don*t have to fear that you would be locked in the lavatory during the turbulence because there is a facility for the flight attendants to open the door from outside anytime. Of course, you can also seek their assistance from inside the toilet as there is an attendant call button there.

2. Though updrafts or downdrafts can be serious in the most extreme cases, it is unlikely for planes to deliberately fly into the core of thunderstorms. Why? Severe thunderstorms are shown very clearly on the radar screen as red (danger); no sane pilot would consciously penetrate them! What usually happens is that, pilot would avoid these turbulent clouds by circumventing them. In doing so, they may be caught in between two clouds that would jostle the passengers quite a bit. How long would the updrafts and downdrafts last is difficult to estimate because it would depend on the size of the turbulent clouds. The pilot would make all possible effort to avoid this condition because it would be just as uncomfortable to him too!

3. PIREPS (Pilot Reports) are actual reports from the pilots. So they are accurate for a particular time. Yes, there are quite a number of websites that give forecast of turbulence. This
site is from one of my visitor and another one here from NOAA. They give forecast and are usually reasonably accurate. Remember, the severity of turbulence varies with altitude but you are unlikely to encounter any updrafts that are any where near "1000 of feet in a matter of seconds"!

Wish you a safe and smooth flight in your next journey.


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HI, WOuld you kindly satisfy my curiosity/concern Re: being locked in an airplane toilet---if there is a call button in there and its usually not a problem, then how come that pilot recently panicked when he got locked in and had to get the aid of a passenger--causing that terrorism scare? That was a weird story. COuld you please comment on this? Thanks much, Kate
Kate , 17 Mar, 2012

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