How much turbulence can a plane take before it breaks apart?
Well, the airline industry ensures that before a plane is certified for passenger carrying, it must pass the stress test. For instance, at the planning and development stage of the Boeing 777, the wings were thoroughly tested to see if it could survive the strongest force that turbulence and bad handling could produce in the air or when landing. During the test, the engineers wanted to see if the plane could take up to 150 percent of the strongest force that it could meet in flight before it broke up. They stressed the wings in a test rig and it only broke after it had bent 24 feet! This goes to show that the structure of the plane is incredibly strong. That’s why the body of the Boeing 777 that crashed at the London Heathrow airport in 2008 was reasonably intact after it had touched down short of the runway even with the landing gears totally collapsed. In the recent development of the Boeing 787 (the debute was last week), the launching of this latest plane was delayed for two years because of structural integrity. So, as you can see, the airline industry ensures that the planes must be structurally very sound before you could get to fly in them. Generally, turbulence is categorized into ‘Light’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Severe’. Light Turbulence: With this, occupants in a plane may feel a slight strain against the seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects may be displaced slightly. Food service may be conducted and little or no difficulty is encountered in walking. Moderate Turbulence: Here, the passengers may feel some definite strains against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are dislodged. Food service and walking are difficult. Severe Turbulence: For this category, occupants are forced violently against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Food service and walking are impossible.