How Do Pilots Handle Turbulence?

How do pilots handle turbulence?

Turbulence is a natural phenomenon that occurs when opposing air currents collide, creating unpredictable movements and vibrations in the aircraft. It can cause the aircraft to shake or bounce, and passengers may feel a sensation similar to riding a roller coaster. Turbulence can range from mild to severe and can be caused by various factors, including weather patterns, wind, and terrain. While turbulence can be uncomfortable for passengers, it is a normal part of air travel and is usually not dangerous.

How Pilots Manage Turbulence

There are various ways in which pilots handle turbulence, including measures they take to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers. These include adjusting the aircraft’s speed, changing altitude, following their flight plan, keeping passengers informed, securing the cabin, following the checklist, and using weather radar.

Adjusting the Aircraft’s Speed

Pilots adjust the aircraft’s speed to minimize the impact of turbulence. Decreasing the speed can help in managing turbulence by allowing the aircraft to maneuver through it more easily.

Changing Altitude

Pilots also adjust the altitude of the aircraft to find smoother air during turbulence. They may climb to a higher altitude to avoid severe turbulence or descend to a lower altitude if the turbulence is concentrated at a higher altitude.

Following the Flight Plan

Pilots use a designated flight plan to avoid areas of known turbulence. Before takeoff, pilots receive weather reports that indicate the presence and severity of turbulence along their planned route. Pilots will adjust their flight plans to avoid areas of severe turbulence.

Keeping Passengers Informed

Communication is essential in managing turbulence. Pilots communicate with passengers to keep them informed about the turbulence and the measures taken to address it. This helps to ease the anxiety and discomfort passengers may feel during turbulence. Pilots instruct flight attendants to ensure passengers are wearing their seatbelts and the cabin is properly secured.

Securing the Cabin

Pilots secure the cabin to prevent injury during turbulence. Flight attendants ensure that passengers and cabin objects are properly secured, including making sure that all luggage is stowed in overhead bins.

Following the Checklist

Pilots have a specific checklist to follow when experiencing turbulence to maintain safety. This checklist includes items such as making sure all passengers are wearing their seatbelts, securing the cabin, and communicating with air traffic control.

Using Weather Radar

Modern aircraft are equipped with advanced weather radar systems that detect areas of turbulence and allow pilots to adjust the flight path accordingly.

Are pilots trained for turbulence?

Yes, pilots are trained to handle turbulence and are prepared to encounter it during flights. Turbulence is a common occurrence in aviation, and pilots must be trained to manage the aircraft in these conditions to ensure the safety and comfort of their passengers.

Pilots receive extensive training in flight school, which includes training in aircraft control, navigation, weather patterns, and emergency procedures. They also receive ongoing training throughout their careers to maintain their skills and stay up-to-date with new technologies and safety procedures. Part of this training includes learning how to recognize, avoid, and manage turbulence.

What do pilots do to avoid turbulence?

Pilots have several tools at their disposal to help them avoid turbulence, including:

Weather reports

Before the flight, pilots receive weather reports that indicate the presence and severity of turbulence along their planned route. Pilots will often adjust their flight plans to avoid areas of severe turbulence.

Weather radar

Pilots use onboard weather radar to detect turbulence ahead and may adjust the flight path to avoid it.


ATC guidance

Air Traffic Control (ATC) may provide guidance to pilots to avoid areas of turbulence or to change altitude to find smoother air.

Flight planning software

Some flight planning software includes turbulence prediction models that help pilots plan their routes to avoid turbulence. In addition, flight planning tools such as Foreflight provide in-flight weather. The pilot can use this data to proactively avoid areas with potentially bumpy air.

Pilot experience

Pilots rely on their experience and knowledge of weather patterns to avoid areas of turbulence whenever possible. Even with these tools, pilots can’t always avoid turbulence. Weather can change quickly and unexpectedly, and turbulence can occur without warning. When turbulence is encountered, pilots follow specific procedures to ensure the safety and comfort of their passengers.

Can a pilot lose control during turbulence?

Turbulence can be unpredictable and can result in unexpected and sudden movements of the aircraft. However, commercial airliners are designed and built to withstand a wide range of turbulence, including severe turbulence. Pilots are trained to handle turbulence, and losing control of the aircraft during turbulence is extremely rare.

Small planes are more susceptible to turbulence due to their lower weight, smaller size, and lower cruising altitude. Modern small planes are designed with features that help minimize the effects of turbulence, such as winglets, which improve stability, and advanced avionics systems that provide pilots with real-time information about turbulence and other weather conditions.

Read also: Is it dangerous to fly a small plane?

That being said, pilots are human. There is always a risk of human error or unexpected events. However, airlines and aviation authorities have implemented stringent safety protocols and procedures to minimize the risk of accidents, including those that could occur during turbulence.

Do pilots get scared during turbulence?

It’s normal for pilots to experience some degree of discomfort or anxiety during turbulence, but they are trained to manage their emotions and maintain their focus on safely operating the aircraft.

Pilots receive extensive training in managing stress and maintaining situational awareness, which allows them to remain calm and focused during turbulence and other challenging situations. They also work closely with air traffic control and other crew members to stay informed about the weather conditions and any changes in flight plans, which helps them to manage turbulence and other challenges effectively.

Do pilots panic during turbulence?

While pilots may experience some discomfort or anxiety during turbulence, it is rare for them to panic. In the unlikely event that a pilot does experience a panic attack or other serious medical issue, they are trained to communicate with other crew members and make a plan to safely land the aircraft.


Pilots are highly skilled and experienced professionals who are equipped to handle turbulence and other challenging conditions. They prioritize the safety and comfort of their passengers and take all necessary steps to ensure a safe and smooth flight.

How Pilots Train For Turbulence To Keep You Safe


As a lifelong lover of aircraft, I decided to share my journey of educating myself about aviation. Here you will find answers to many common questions asked by those new to flying.

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