Monday, April 03, 2006

Bump and Grind

We're climbing through FL180 after our early morning departure from Bozeman when the turbulence begins.

It's just some constant rhythmic jiggles at first, but there's a few more earnest bumps thrown in for good measure. I call the flight attendants. "Hey, ATC told us we're gonna have some turbulence at our cruising altitude, you might want to stay seated until we get a better idea."

No sooner do I switch off the interphone than the turbulence starts for real. Bam Bam Bam! Three quick raps, followed by the some wallowing from side to side. Bam Bam BOOM! I'm thrown upward into the seatbelt; I grab onto the glareshield with my left hand. We're climbing through FL210 right now; I look at the captain and he says "Yeah, let's go back down to FL200." I key the mic and request FL200; ATC quickly agrees.

I reach for the altitude alerter and twist it down to 20,000 feet. BAM! Whoops, 19,700. I reach for it again. Boom! Again, the turbulence makes me spin the alerter past my target, to 20,300. Okay, let's just... BOOM! Argh! 18,900! Now I'm just getting mad. After several more turbulence-hampered tries, I get the darn thing to 20,000, and start to push the ALT SEL (altitude select) button on the autopilot panel. Bam! My hand slips and I push the VNAV button instead. Grrr....

I'm starting to realize that push-button airplanes just aren't designed with moderate turbulence in mind.


Ron said...

You're right, panels were not designed with turbulence in mind. You can see that in many places, even on the plastic SE airplanes I fly. The buttons and knobs are tiny and were obviously designed by an engineer sitting at a desk on the ground.

If I had a dime for every time I've clicked or dialed the wrong thing because of a bump from Mother Nature...

GC said...

I remember being on a GPS approach (in VFR conditions) into IYK one night as the Santa Ana Winds were blowing. We got down to our MDA and were trucking towards the airport when all hell absolutely broke loose.

Even with "get-the-hell-outta-here" power, gear up, and flaps in go-around position (don't remember what that was in the EMB-120), we were only getting 200 feet-per-minute climb at 15 degrees nose up. The whole time we were literally getting tossed from side to side and rolled back and forth nearly 90 degrees.

I remember the turbulence being so horrific that I couldn't even find the push-to-talk switch to let Joshua Approach know that we were encountering severe turbulence and windshear and were turning towards the low terrain and into China Lake NWS restricted airspace in order to try and find our way out of that rotor.

8 of 11 people in the back of that airplane got sick in their seats that night, including the flight attendant. "Blue juice" had come up out of the lavatory in back and soaked the carpet up to the emergency exit row. Everyone was glad we decided not to attempt that approach again, electing to return to LAX instead.

After arriving back at LAX, the aircraft had to be inspected for its encounter with severe turbulence.

The winds at the time were blowing out of the west at about 65 knots over the tops of the mountains, causing a rotor to form above the valley where IYK sits. There were no reports of turbulence in the area prior to our approach.

Flat out, that is the worst turbulence I have ever experienced.

Anonymous said...

Nice Blog. I've linked it with an excerpt and small picture over at Hope you don't mind if I do that on occasion.

Sam said...

Hehe, GC...another victim of the Owens Valley. I'll see your EMB120 and raise you a PA32R! [grin]

Ryan said...

Pretty Cool Pics. I've got some of Yosemite too. Ryan