We’re sure all travellers will agree that turbulence isn’t a pleasant thing to encounter at the best of times.
And for nervous flyers, its the absolute worst.
Though turbulence, which is just bumpy air, is totally harmless to planes, it can leave passengers shaken (literally) and make even the strongest stomach queasy.
It can also occur at any time, but some places that are more prone to bumpy air than others according to pilot and senior advisor in the flight safety department of the British Airline Pilots Association, Captain Stuart Clarke.
“Big thunderstorm clouds cause turbulence and you’ll find these around the equator,” Clarke told the Sun.
“When you cross the equator, there’s a belt of weather called the inter-tropical convergence zone. It moves north and south with the seasons.
“I used to fly a lot from Heathrow to South Africa as an airline pilot and I would fly down Africa. When I got to the equator area, I’d always encounter thunderstorms.
“That series of storms extends right around the world on the equator line. The weather and the resulting turbulence is a result of hot weather and the coming together of the winds from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.”
Clarke said the main airports where you might encounter turbulence due to these thunderstorms are Singapore, Miami, Cancun, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Mumbai.
A particular route where you’ll probably encounter turbulence is while flying from the UK to the US over the North Atlantic where you’ll likely encounter a jet stream.
“It can often be a bumpy ride between the US and the UK, particularly in winter,” Clarke said.
“Pilots will do whatever they can to avoid the turbulence as it is seriously annoying for both crew and passengers on board.
“To do this, they will try to fly under or over the turbulence. It’s very common, and you could also have a smooth flight – but really, you’re at the mercy of the jet stream and its position.”
Flying over mountains can also make for a bumpy ride because of something called a “mountain wave”.
“Further up at 10,000 foot-high mountain ranges, you’re much more likely to have strong winds of 50 to 100 miles per hour,” Clarke explained.
“In very strong winds, a pilot will try and add on some extra height to cross mountains such as the Alps.”
“The sort of turbulence caused by terrain can occur anywhere there are mountains (or even hills) and strong winds.
“It is very difficult to give a list of where such turbulence might occur because, as long as the conditions are right (hills / mountains and strong winds blowing at the level of the summit), it could occur anywhere in the world.
“You can even get serious turbulence due to quite small hills in strong winds, especially when those hills are close to airports e.g. when flying into Glasgow airport from the east.
“Gibraltar is a particularly good example, where the close proximity of the rock to the airport means that the airport can be closed if the wind is strong enough and is blowing from the ‘wrong direction’.”