Home World The 10 most turbulent flight paths in the world – full list

The 10 most turbulent flight paths in the world – full list

Turbulence has proven deadly in recent days, with Geoff Kitchen, a British tourist from Thornbury, having died during a particularly severe encounter as he embarked on a six-week holiday with his wife on Tuesday.

The plane, Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, was carrying 140 passengers and crew members as it plummeted 6,000 feet in just five minutes and was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Those aboard the flight described the following screams, blood and general chaos, with some people flung against the ceiling of the aircraft.

While the violent experience injured several passengers and caused a global shock, the route from Heathrow the aircraft was tracing is not among those recognised as the most turbulent.

Experts have discovered the 10 most turbulent routes in the world by breaking down the data from hundreds of thousands of long-haul flights.

Turbulence forecasters at Turbili pored over data from 150,000 flights carried out in 2023 and determined routes by calculating eddy dissipation rates (EDR).

EDRs are calculated by exploring the dissipation rate of eddies – turbulent currents of air – on aircraft.

The experts ranked the flights on EDR values between 0 and 100, with higher numbers indicating more turbulence.

They found that the most turbulent flight path in the world was between Santiago, Chile and Santa Cruz, in Bolivia, which had an average EDR of 17.5.

The most turbulent flights in the world are ranked as follows:

1. Santiago (SCL) – Santa Cruz (VVI)

2. Almaty (ALA) – Bishkek (FRU)

3. Lanzhou (LHW) – Chengdu (CTU)

4. Centrair (NGO) – Sendai (SDJ)

5. Milan (MXP) – Geneva (GVA)

6. Lanzhou (LHW) – Xianyang (XIY)

7. Osaka (KIX) – Sendai (SDJ)

8. Xianyang (XIY) – Chengdu (CTU)

9. Xianyang (XIY) – Chongqing (CKG)

10. Milan (MXP) – Zurich (ZRH)

Most of those highly turbulent flight paths have one thing in common: they are dotted with mountains.

Turbulence tends to be most significant around mountainous terrain, as it can cause “mountain waves” that create currents known to interfere with aircraft.

Experts believe this type of turbulence was not responsible for Tuesday’s incident, with Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading, telling CBC News it was likely hard-to-detect “clear-air turbulence”.


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