Can turbulence alone cause a plane to crash? Here’s what an airline pilot had to say

Can turbulence cause an aircraft to crash?

– Jennifer, Nashville

In the early days of commercial jets, there were a few cases where turbulence caused structural damage resulting in an accident. Thinking as far back as the 1980s, I do not know of any case where turbulence caused an accident.

In 1994, a US Air DC-9 encountered a microburst, which is turbulent. The downward-rushing air pushed the airplane into the ground. It was not the turbulence that caused the accident but the column of downward air. That was the last microburst accident in the U.S.

Airplanes are designed to withstand much more turbulence than most people realize. 

Ask the Captain:  How is severe turbulence defined and who flies the plane in those conditions?

More on turbulence:  Can severe turbulence tear the wing off a jetliner?

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