April 27 Continental Flight 1792 EWR to MCO

Our “on time” flight took off 90 minutes late. Beautiful weather. Several minutes after take off, no tubulance, the plane suddenly dropped. People screamed, children cried ect. I have NEVER experienced this in my entire life. To make matters worse, the pilot NEVER came on the PA to announce or apologize for the turbulance.

My husband was tracking the flight through FLIGHT AWARE ( kudos…a great way to know when to head to the airport if you are picking someone up ! ). When I arrived, I told him that it was “the worst” flight I had ever been on and he said, " so what happened right after takeoff" ?

We went from 38000 to 16200 in less than a minute. ( I would have thought the wings would have fallen off ) How do I find out WHAT happened ? Shouldn’t there be a report of such an incident ?

Here is a permanent link to the flight:

Here’s a screen-shot of the tracklog:

Scary indeed!

There might be a recording of the radio transmissions between pilots and ATC at LIVEATC.net - might give some clues if we can find the recording…

I think that site is generally for airport communications, and your plane was apparently under the control of New York Center, so that is probably not a good bet…

Air pocket?

No you did not. You were cleared up to 38,000ft when the plane was at 16,200ft. It’s a glitch FA was aware of. The “drop” you felt was probably clear air turbulence. The pilot probably did not apologize due to the fact that it wasn’t their fault and it probably wasn’t as bad as you make it out to be. Sorry. :cry:

Can’t imagine what the ear drums would do on a 22,000 foot drop in less then a minute or what the pressurization of the plane would do. :wink:

I have flown enough to know “clear air turbulence”. Also, when there is such, the pilot will come over and explain this to the passengers. They do this to reassure the passengers…the last thing the airline industry wants is for patrons to fear flying.
As far as being “wasn’t as bad as you make it out to be”. People actually SCREAMED during this incident. Stuff was knocked out of people’s hands ect…
My husband contacted a friend who is a captain for NorthWest and out of the scenarios he described, this was the closest to what happened :

"If it lasted about a second or two, and was accompanied by some wing rocks, it was probably due to an aircraft going the same direction a few miles in front. Those can be pretty violent especially if it’s a “heavy” (say a MD-11, a 747, or a 777). "

Being that we had just taken off from a very very busy airport and the tower had the planes lined up like kids in the lunch line, this is probably the best explanation.


"If it lasted about a second or two, and was accompanied by some wing rocks, it was probably due to an aircraft going the same direction a few miles in front. Those can be pretty violent especially if it’s a “heavy” (say a MD-11, a 747, or a 777). "

Being that we had just taken off from a very very busy airport and the tower had the planes lined up like kids in the lunch line, this is probably the best explanation. [/quote]

What you describe sounds like wake turbulence which is pretty much the same as clear air turbulence (AKA CAT). CAT is only a description of the air vs being in a cloud.

Wake turbulence (caused by planes), mechanical (caused by terrain) or meterological (caused by weather) CAT can result in “severe turbulence” which will feel the same to the passenger.

See 9.2.8 in this link
faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/ … s0902.html which will help you understand the various levels of turbulence.

I have flown passengers in light to moderate turbulence in my small plane and they felt like the world was coming to an end and they would have defined it as extreme if it was up to them yet we “only” dropped 50 to 100 feet".

Needless to say, I don’t think you dropped 4 miles out of the sky based on the track log as I personally doubt the plane is structually capable of surviving that kind of drop in that duration of time.

Not to mention that the track log shows them going from 11,500 to 38,000 in the minute before the drop to 16,200.

Wazzu grad Gary Larson illustrates what really happened:

The messages with new assigned altitudes look just like the messages with actual positions/altitudes to us, so we display them all.


Nor did you climb from 11500 feet to 38000 feet in one minute.

If your plane HAD performed the gymnastics indicated in the flight track you’d be communicating with us from the great beyond, for you and the rest of the folks on the plane would now reside in a smoking hole in the ground.

This reminds me of a conversation I once had at a cocktail party many years ago with one of my wife’s colleagues. She was regaling us with her tale of flying to SFO ex JFK and how the jet she flew on was amazing and the trip only took three hours. This immediately piqued my interest and I politely attempted to correct her notion of the length of the flight but she was adamant.

She stated she had taken off from JFK at approximately 9AM and it was only a few minutes after Noon when she arrived. Nothing I said would change her mind that her trip had only taken three hours! :unamused:

I’m sure whatever transpired on the TheRunningNurses’s flight was unsettling to some on board, the screams serve as adequate evidence of that fact, but some folks never allow the opportunity to over react pass them by when a simple reaction would suffice.

Airline Pilot Practical Jokes

Don’t know about the claim for climbing that fast but I can see the aircraft descending that fast. China Airlines 006 descended (more like fell) 30,000 feet in less than 2.5 minutes.

“China Airlines 006 was involved in an accident that caused two serious injuries and substantial damage to the aircraft. The aircraft was significantly damaged by the aerodynamic forces. The wings were permanently bent upwards by two inches, and the landing gear and nearby airframe had much damage. Most affected was the tail, where large outer parts of both horizontal stabilizers had been ripped off. The entire left outboard elevator had been lost along with its actuator, which had been powered by the hydraulic system that ruptured and drained. The landing gear doors flew off the plane during the plunge.”!

A 22,000 foot per minute descent? I think not folks. I’ve flown my fair share too. Once on an 8 mile final to HNL the Heavy Boeing 767 I was riding in hit a “bump”. We lost 50, MAYBE 75, feet and a full third of the passengers screamed, squealed, or otherwise loudly verbalized their discomfort. A non-event did freak out a good number of passengers to be sure, but it was still a non-event. I do not doubt that this flight also lost some altitude, but again, a Twenty Two THOUSAND foot per minute descent rate? Really?

If the airline had an excellent customer service ethic, the captain would naturally decide to make an announcement. If he/she had a customer service attitude impairment, or if his inner ears were hardened from a previous career flying F-16s, then the purser, acting as the advocate for the pax who screamed, would call and request an announcement at a convenient time. This is what I would expect from an airline that wanted to keep our business.

It’s not because the pilot owed them an explanation or apology. It’s because that was a relationship moment – when you need to say something if you want to end up with a good airline/ pax relationship. Instead TheRunningNurse’s story illustrates the converse: that NOT speaking from the cockpit indeed damaged the relationship. The airline appeared callous and uninterested.

Dunno about you, but truth be known, I have never heard an announcement from the flight deck about turbulence during a climb as this plane was doing. Seat belts would still be on for this phase of flight anyway. Focus of attention should be flying the plane. I personally would not expenct an apology, but that may be the piloting “understanding” part of me coming out.

I have heard apologies for turbulence in cruise flight though and the pilot has said we are trying different altitudes to try and find smooth air.

Right on Allen. I would add that I have only had warnings about climbout tubulence on the ground before takeoff, but that was Denver. That said, a few words from the flight deck go a long way with customers. Even if only to say, “on the right side of the airplane you will see…”. Gives them that warm fuzzy feeling.

Depending on the specific point in the flight, Sterile Cockpit Procedures will of course preclude the flight crew from making announcements.

As JHEM points out, there is a sterile cockpit so the pilots wouldn’t be allowed to make announcements to the passengers during take off. They need to wait until they are at 10,000 feet.

I did take a Southwest flight out of LAX where the pilot told the pax that the flight would be bumpy during takeoff but this was during the pushback.