UA flight hits severe turbulence, 30 injured

I’ve been on some flights that were bumpy enough to worry me, and that’s coming from a former airline employee. Thankfully, I’ve never been through anything like this:

A United Airlines  jetliner hit severe turbulence while flying over Kansas, injuring 30 and jolting one woman out of her seat so forcefully that she left a crack when she hit the side of the cabin, authorities and a witness said.

The Tuesday flight was the airline’s third this year during which passengers were hurt because of turbulence.

The flight originated at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., and was headed to Los Angeles. It was diverted to Denver International Airport, where it landed safely around 7:45 p.m. and was met by medical crews, Denver Fire Department spokesman Eric Tade said.

There were 26 passengers and 4 crew members injured in the incident which was described by some passengers as “a rollercoaster” kind of movement. “Severe turbulence” doesn’t seem to do that kind of thing justice but that’s all we’ve got for the moment. The FAA and NTSB are investigating but we know this much already: the flight was from Washington Dulles (right here in Loudoun County) headed to Los Angeles and was flying at 34,000 feet over Kansas when it hit the turbulence. During the incident, described by passengers as “just a huge up and down” motion, anyone not belted in experienced pronounced negative g-forces, throwing them basically head-first at the ceiling. One woman hit hard enough to crack the cabin panel she ran into. It goes without saying that most of the cabin crew was unbelted at the time.

This sounds like some sort of wind shear but it’s some of the worst I’ve heard of to be knocking a Boeing 777 around like that. More details will have to be forthcoming but I’m wondering if they were flying near or over bad weather at the time. Seems very unusual for that kind of turbulence to come out of completely clear air. I’ll leave the final word on that to the experts at the NTSB, of course. I’ll pass along more when I hear more.