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Frequently Asked Questions

How accurate is turbli?

Turbli uses the same data sources that pilots and airlines use to plan their flights. This data comes from advanced weather models developed by NOAA and the MetOffice that provide very good estimates but are not 100% accurate. We have all seen days where the local weather forecast predicted rain but then it was sunny; turbulence forecasting is the same.

For a deep dive on this topic, take a look at our detailed article of how accurate are turbulence forecasts.

Loss of accuracy can also occur if the plane follows a different route than the one assumed in turbli. For US flights, higher accuracy can be expected as we use the route and altitude planned by the pilots, data which is generally available 90 min before departure. If the flight plan is not available, the route is assumed to be the one of the previous flight with same departure, arrival and flight number. This functionality applies worldwide. If the previous flight data is unavailable, a geodesic route is assumed and we estimate the altitude internally.

How often are the forecasts updated?

The turbulence, wind and thunderstorm forecasts are updated every 6 hours.

The runway crosswinds forecasts are updated every 15 minutes. The METAR and PIREP measurements are updated every 15 minutes.

The flight plan database is updated every 5 minutes.

Why does my flight does not appear in turbli?

The schedules shown in turbli are provided by an external company and sometimes we get flights with incomplete data such as missing arrival time. This prevents us from generating the forecasts, and therefore we don't show such flights in our selection lists.

If this happens, you can use our interactive turbulence map and other weather maps to assess the turbulence levels during your flight. You can also check flights departing at similar times.

Light turbulence, should I worry?

Not at all. Light turbulence means that you will have a smooth flight.

Turbulence is present in almost all the atmosphere, regions with laminar flow (turbulence free) are very rare. Light turbulence is the lowest level you can get, so you will barely feel anything inside the plane.

We are aware that the term “Null” turbulence is common in aviation. We decided to avoid this term to make our users more conscious that turbulence is all around us, and therefore an area with higher levels of turbulence are nothing out of the normal.

Moderate turbulence, should I worry?

Not at all. With moderate turbulence it might be difficult to walk the alley, and a cup of water placed on your tray table will show wrinkles on the surface. These are obviously not safety concerns.

Higher levels of moderate turbulence can increase the levels of the mentioned situations, and the seat belt sign will usually turn on.

Strong turbulence, should I worry?

Not at all. At this point you might feel sudden movements of the plane, so it's important to keep your seat belt fastened. Other than that, there is no safety concern either. Even if the changes in altitude feel enormous for passengers, the actual displacement of the plane is usually small, and the strain on its wings and fuselage is well below what they can tolerate.

(Technically speaking, “strong” is not an official term for aviation turbulence, but we added it in turbli to avoid that moderate turbulence covers a too wide range of very different turbulent sensations).

Severe turbulence, should I worry?

Not at all. These high levels of turbulence are very rare, but still, they were taken into account when designing the plane structure. Also, if the pilots encounter severe turbulence, they will do their best to get out of there as soon as they can to avoid putting too much stress on passengers and prevent injuries from falling objects or people.

Since we cannot predict the pilot's reaction when encountering severe turbulence, any of our forecasts showing severe turbulence will have a title mentioning that “your pilot might find an alternative route”.

Extreme turbulence, should I worry?

We have not yet seen a flight with a forecasts with extreme turbulence. If it ever shows, your pilot will also be well aware of it, and they will either take a different route or cancel the flight.

As for the case of severe turbulence, forecasts with extreme turbulence are presented together with a title of “your pilot might find an alternative route”.

My forecast shows stronger headwind than usual, should I worry?

Not at all. Headwind is simply the wind component flowing directly against the aircraft. A stronger or weaker headwind has no safety implications whatsoever. It only affects travel time, since a strong headwind will make it harder for the plane to advance.

My forecast shows light turbulence but thunderstorms on the way, what should I expect?

The resolution of the turbulence forecasts produced by NOAA is not enough to capture the details of thunderstorm clouds. Therefore, thunderstorm forecasts are generated separately and do not contain information of the expected turbulence inside them, only their location and size.

If your flight shows thunderstorms on the way, you can expect a bit more bumpy conditions than usual, possibly in the moderate level. Keep in mind that thunderstorm clouds are not all the same. There are small ones that the pilot might even cross through, and large ones that the pilot will keep away from.

I know flying is safe, but I panic thinking about my next flight, what should I do?

You have probably developed a phobia. Fortunately, phobias can be cured, so contact a psychologist as soon as possible.

Don't rely on pills, tranquilizers, alcohol, etc. These might allow you to survive a flight, but they will not be able to fix the root problem of your phobia and might even induce negative side effects.

If you are flying soon and don't have time for therapy before that: eat well, arrive with time, bring something to keep you entertained, mention your fear to the flight attendant, and remind yourself as often as possible that flying is the safest transport mode, ahead of bus and train.

Does turbulence feel different in different planes?

Yes. The are many variables affecting this, but the main ones are the wing-loading and the plane speed. The forecasts presented in turbli have been calibrated with these two parameters.

For a more detailed analysis of planes and their interaction with turbulence, take a look at our article on the best planes to fly through turbulence.

Can turbulence bring down a plane?

In normal conditions, no, not at all. The last plane crash of a commercial plane solely attributed to turbulence was in in 1981, flight HN431. There have been many flights after that!

The extreme turbulence that can develop inside large thunderstorm clouds can be very dangerous for planes. Luckily, these are quite easy to spot (you can see them with the naked eye) and pilots will always avoid them.

Is turbulence a safety concern for pilots?

Turbulence is almost never a safety concern for the plane's integrity, but it remains as the leading cause of in-flight injuries. Flight attendants accumulate about 80% of all severe injuries from turbulence in a plane, mainly injuries in the lower extremities such as broken ankles (FAA data for 2009–2018).

Injuries in passengers account for 20% of the total, mainly in the spine area due to not having the seat belt fastened and hitting the ceiling during strong turbulence (FAA data for 2009–2018). To avoid this, keep the seat belt fastened during the flight.

What can I do to keep myself safe during a flight?

Follow the instructions given by flight attendants and fasten your seat belt, as simple as that. For extra safety, keep it fastened even if the seat belt sign is off to be avoid injuries from sudden strong turbulence not predicted by the pilots.

Also, avoid airlines that are banned from the European or American airspace. Such bans are typically placed on airlines that don't comply with the safety and maintenance regulations from the FAA and EASA. The recent and very unfortunate accident in Nepal was flight YT691 from Yeti airlines, banned from European airspace at the time of the crash.

Low fare airlines are as safe as high end airlines. In a recent analysis from turbli, we found that they are even a bit safer.

I am flying in a very old aircraft, is it safe?

Yes. All airlines need to comply with strict maintenance regulations that span from daily checks to complete overhauls of the plane every 6 to 10 years.

The only downside of old planes is that they might have a lower quality entertainment system (if it was not upgraded during an overhaul). But there is no concern on safety.

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