Passengers on a flight between Canada and Australia said they had not been warned of the turbulence that suddenly hit the ceiling of the aircraft and injured more than three dozen – a phenomenon that experts say can to be almost impossible for pilots.
The Air Canada flight between Vancouver and Sydney faced a "sudden and unexpected turbulence" about two hours after Hawaii on Thursday, and the plane was hijacked in Honolulu, airline spokeswoman Angela Mah said. .
The flight made an emergency landing after 37 people were injured, nine of them seriously, during the sudden loss of altitude that caused people to fly into the baggage compartments. the aisles of the plane.
The aircraft may have encountered turbulence of clean air caused by wind patterns with no visible warning in the sky or by the radar capability of the aircraft to detect it. Meteorologists also can not prevent pilots from warning pilots, said Thomas Guinn of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
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"It's probably one of the most difficult prediction problems we have at the moment for aviation weather," he said.
Pilots rely on weather balloon data and other pilots to predict turbulence, but there is less information on ocean conditions than on regions like the United States. Continental United States, said Erik Eliel, airline pilot.
"This becomes less predictable when you arrive in parts of the world where you have less data collection capabilities," said Eliel, president of Radar Training International, a company that trains pilots in the use of tracking systems. weather radar.
Forecasters are usually able to do a good job, but it's not a perfect science, he said.
"Until this becomes a perfect science, you will always have that kind of situation," he said.
Passenger Andrew Szucs said The Associated Press that the pilot came on the radio and said he did not see the radar turbulence and "have no warning, this kind of aerial dropping was going to happen".
Szucs, originally from Ontario but now residing in Sydney, said that there had been turbulence before the crash and that he was awake and that he was getting ready.
"Then suddenly, the plane dropped and went away," Szucs said. The people who were not tied up "stole, hit the ceiling".
He was not injured, but 30 people were taken to hospitals, emergency workers said.
"The plane just dumped," said passenger Stephanie Beam. "When we were dealing with turbulence, I woke up and I looked to make sure my kids were curly.The next thing I knew, it was that there are literally bodies on the ceiling of the plane. "
A woman behind her hit the ceiling so hard that she broke the envelope of an oxygen mask, Beam said.
Among the wounded, there were children and seniors, said Dean Nakano, chief of emergency medical services in Honolulu. People have had cuts, bumps, bruises, neck and back pain, officials said.
Llyn Williams said, when they were hit by the violent turbulence, "all those who were not seated and tied got stuck behind the roof, almost everyone in our cabin".
Williams, whose wife was injured while they were returning home to Sydney, described the cabin as scary, with trailing plastic and hanging oxygen masks.
"There is a lot of blood everywhere," he said. "It was really scary."
The turbulence occurred at 36,000 feet (10,973 m) about 966 km southwest of Honolulu, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor. The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 269 passengers and 15 crew members, Air Canada said.
Climate change is affecting high altitude conditions in addition to conditions on the ground, said Paul Williams, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in England, who studies the turbulence of the atmosphere. ;fresh air.
"We expect more turmoil in the clear later," he said.