what we know after turbulence which left one dead and a hundred injured

The plane from London to Singapore had to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, Thailand, after extreme turbulence. A British passenger died and 104 people were injured.



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The Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300, which had to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, Thailand, photographed on May 22, 2024. (LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

What happened on board this plane which was flying on Tuesday May 21 between London and the city-state of Singapore, in Asia? Extreme turbulence on board the Boeing 777-300 caused the death of a British passenger and left around a hundred injured among the 211 passengers and 18 crew members. The plane had to land in absolute emergency at Bangkok airport, Thailand. Franceinfo takes stock of the circumstances of this incident.

Scenes of “absolute terror”, but the plane did not “fall”

Passengers recounted what they experienced on Tuesday aboard this plane. One of them recalls in an interview with the BBC scenes of “absolute terror”. The passengers had just received their meal trays. The plane was above the Irrawaddy basin, in the very south of Burma, at an altitude of some 11,300 meters, ten hours after takeoff, when suddenly the Boeing, according to testimonies, began to collapse. tilt and tremble. It then rises extremely violently and then plunges twice.

“It is a controlled, voluntary descent, deliberately chosen by the pilots to descend to an altitude where we are no longer in a zone of turbulence. There is absolutely no drop of 1 800 meters, that doesn’t exist”specifies on franceinfo Xavier Tytelman, military aviator.

The pilot had almost no time to warn the cabin, all the passengers who were seated without seat belts were then thrown towards the ceiling. Those who were standing at the time then did somersaults, one man said, and everywhere objects that were not fixed in the plane flew.

We also hear screams. Some passengers had head lacerations and bleeding ears. Terrible scenes but quite short since, according to several websites specializing in flight tracking, it all lasted a little over a minute. The aircraft then requested an emergency landing in Bangkok, where upon arrival ambulances rushed around the aircraft.

British passenger dies, 20 injured in intensive care

The passenger killed is Geoff Kitchen. This 73-year-old Briton was the director of a theater near Bristol, Great Britain. The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lawrence Wong, addressed his “deepest condolences” to his loved ones, just like the CEO of Singapore Airlines, Goh Choon Phong, who declared in a video that he was “truly sorry for the traumatic experience” experienced by those on board.

The incident injured a total of 104 people. The Samitivej hospital group in Thailand told AFP on Wednesday that it had taken care of 85 of them, including 20 in intensive care from Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New -Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines.

The preferred weather turbulence track

The investigation will be carried out jointly by Thailand, but also by Singapore, which announced the sending to Bangkok of a delegation from its transport safety investigation office. But at this stage the most likely hypothesis is that of weather turbulence. Phenomena which are generally anticipated by pilots using radars, but which in certain cases are difficult to predict and can be very violent, in particular so-called “clear air” turbulence, which occurs in cloudless areas. These are very powerful air currents which affect the stability of the plane.

Scientists explain that, with climate change which accentuates temperature differences, this turbulence is increasing sharply. A study suggests an increase of 55% between 1979 and 2020. On the other hand, passenger deaths linked to this turbulence are extremely rare. Specialists explain that, in such cases, wearing a seat belt throughout the flight can be vital and help save a life, and at least limit injuries.

Boeing’s responsibility not questioned

Even if at this stage of the investigation the American aircraft manufacturer is in no way blamed, this incident joins a series of others involving Boeing, including several fatal crashes in recent years. These different accidents each time have a different reason, but this has led to mistrust among Boeing’s customers. China, for example, banned its companies from flying 737 MAX aircraft for five years after a crash in 2019. Deliveries barely resumed last January.

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