JetBlue diverts flight after 20 injured during heavy turbulence

Most air travelers are familiar with an occasional mid-flight lurch. How common are injuries resulting from turbulence?

Fred Prouser/Reuters
JetBlue Airways aircrafts are pictured at departure gates at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. JetBlue Flight 429 from Massachusetts to California was diverted to South Dakota on Thursday after 20 passengers and crew were injured during the turbulent flight.

JetBlue says more than 20 passengers and crew members were injured when turbulence rocked their flight from Massachusetts to California, forcing the aircraft to be diverted to South Dakota.

Flight 429 was traveling from Boston to Sacramento on Thursday with 145 passengers and five crew members on board when it was diverted to Rapid City, where it landed around 7:30 p.m.

JetBlue spokeswoman Sharon Jones says 122 of the passengers have since completed their trip, landing in Sacramento almost 10 hours later.

JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw says seven customers and two crew members were taken to a rapid City hospital by ambulance; 15 additional customers were taken by bus for further evaluation.

The hospital has not responded Friday morning to a request for information about the passengers' conditions.

Turbulence is a routine part of air travel. While pilots and crew take steps to reduce the number of injuries during bumpy rides, they do occur on a regular basis, as Olivia Lowenberg reported for The Christian Science Monitor in May:

Even though turbulence is normal, it can still be dangerous, which is why the Federal Aviation Administration requires passengers to wear their seatbelts as the airplane leaves the gate, after take-off, during landing and taxi, and whenever the seatbelt sign is illumined. Most injuries that do happen during turbulent flights happen to people who are not buckled in, which is why two-thirds of people injured annually on planes are flight attendants.

But nervous travelers can rest assured that even the most severe turbulence won't cause an airplane to fall from the sky, aviation experts say.

'Even in extremely rough air, the wing is not going to break off and the plane is not going to flip upside-down,' pilot Patrick Smith told Gizmodo in 2014. Planes are designed to take a beating, and even in the roughest weather the plane won't movemore than 40 feet in any direction.

For the smoothest flight experience, Mr. Smith recommends sitting closest to the middle of the plane, near its center of gravity. The seats that tend to pick up the most turbulence are farther to the back of the plane.

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