Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Air Turbulence: Am I Going To Die?

I've flown a lot for work. I'm pretty relaxed in the air, although I never like going over the ocean. If something happens in the middle of the Pacific, you're just screwed. Many times, I've sat there and tried to map out how long it would take rescue ships to reach you if there was a water landing an hour outside of Hawaii or San Diego. The answer: too long.

Turbulence bothers me, too. I prefer the window seat, so when we hit air pockets, I've got a perfect view of the wings flexing. I know the engineering is sound, but the primitive part of my brain is running in circles, screaming in panic. "Are they supposed to bend like that? How much does it take to snap them off?" The answer: quite a bit. In fact, a lot more than you'll ever experience.

Here's a good article on aircraft testing. Below is a video showing wing stress tests where the wing finally snaps at 154% of its design rating. The real bending starts around 1:40.

So fly in relaxed comfort, my friends. Thanks to the math, physics and engineering discoveries of Christian Europeans*, the elements aren't going to bring you down.

* - Yes, I had to get that in. ;-)

1 comment:

tom said...

Boeing had an awesome blog on the whole 777 test process. If you understood ETOPS you'd feel better over the ocean. Maybe. Unfortunately the blog is gone.

And next time I fly on a 777, I'm going to sneak onto the intercom and repeat "154, 154, 154"..