Passengers hit with laptop, iPad during in-flight turbulence

Keep your seatbelt fastened

A severe-turbulence incident involving a Boeing 767 shows why it’s crucial to securely stow all carry-on baggage, including laptops and iPads, during flight.

On 8 November 2013, the Boeing 767 experienced severe turbulence while descending into Sydney. The turbulence lasted for about 2 minutes and the crew discontinued the approach and initiated a go-around. During the climb of the go-around, the aircraft experienced more turbulence and one passenger sustained a serious head injury from a laptop computer that fell from an overhead locker. Another received a rib injury and a third was injured by an iPad.

After circling for about 20 minutes, a further attempt to land was affected by turbulence. The crew declared a PAN and diverted to Williamtown, New South Wales. After landing safely, the injured passengers were transported to hospital for treatment.

This incident is a timely reminder for passengers to stow all carry-on baggage securely in the overhead lockers...

Before departure from Melbourne, weather reports had only indicated the possibility of moderate turbulence below 5,000 ft. After the incident, the Bureau of Meteorology reported that a strong and gusty south-westerly change had produced windshear as the change encountered the north-easterly sea-breeze. This sudden change affected the landing.

This incident is a timely reminder for passengers to stow all carry-on baggage (including laptops and iPads) securely in the overhead lockers or under the seat in front of them, especially when the seatbelt sign is turned on. These items can become projectiles during turbulence if not properly secured.  

The ATSB’s Aviation Safety Bulletin Staying Safe against In-flight Turbulence identified that 99 per cent of people on board an aircraft receive no injuries during a typical turbulence event. However, in recent research, the ATSB is seeing a doubling of turbulence and windshear events in passenger operations, some affecting the safety of those in the cabin.

Read the ATSB investigation report AO-2013-209 

Last update 04 March 2016