Turbulence Rocks Two Flights in SF Bay Area
On December 1st, two flights preparing for arrival into San Francisco Bay area airports encountered severe turbulence. According to NTSB reports, both flights were descending and at approximately 30,000 ft while over Yosemite National Park.
The first flight was United Flight 721, a Boeing 757-200 with 146 passengers plus crew on-board. The flight was en-route from Denver, Colorado, (DEN) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The airplane hit turbulence at 30,000 while the aircraft was on Modesto Three Standard Terminal Arrival for SFO. The aircraft made the journey at an altitude of 36,000 ft.
The United Boeing 757 made a safe landing at San Francisco International Airport. One flight attended received a serious injury, confirmed to be a broken fibula.
The second flight was Southwest Airlines Flight 1489, a Boeing 737-700 with 95 passengers plus crew on a routine flight from Albuquerque (ABQ) to Oakland (OAK) as they encountered turbulence around 30,000ft. One flight attendant had minor injuries while the other suffered a compression fracture of his vertebrae.
According to Southwest Airlines, the airplane had been at FL400 and was descending to FL300 when the flight encountered severe turbulence. All three flight attendants were not seated when the turbulence was encountered. One flight attendant was in the forward galley and the other two flight attendants were in the aft galley. The flight attendant in the forward galley was thrown up and down, and side to side with her feet leaving the cabin floor. She was able to hold onto a counter, and was eventually able to secure herself in the forward jumpseat; she was not transported to the hospital. The two flight attendants in the aft galley were thrown around the aft galley and struck their heads and backs; they also were eventually able to secure themselves in their respective jumpseats and remained there throughout the landing. Both flight attendants were transported to the hospital via ambulance. There were no passengers transported to the hospital.
An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed, but the United Flight noted Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.
The above information is from preliminary NTSB reports. A final report will be issued at a later date.
When incidents like these happen, it is always a good time to remind oneself of the true dangers of turbulence. Turbulence, especially Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) can hit at any time – size of aircraft does not matter either.