On March 3, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) issued a Tweet saying that a flight over New England experienced severe turbulence resulting in the death of a passenger; however, in a Preliminary Report just released, the NTSB no longer feels turbulence was a factor in the death.
The NTSB said they opened an investigation into the death that occurred on a Bombardier Challenger 300 (CL30) airplane that left New Hampshire for Virginia. The aircraft took off from Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Keene, New Hampshire but diverted to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut around 4pm on March 3.
Dana Hyde, a former White House official and State Department staffer who worked on the 9/11 Commission, died from injuries suffered on the aircraft incident that day.
At the time of the incident that led to Hyde’s lethal injuries, the pilots were attempting to resolve the issues by using a checklist for a failure of the primary stabilizer trim, the report said.
The latest Preliminary Report from the NTSB states:
The airplane immediately pitched up to about 11° and reached a vertical acceleration of about
+3.8g. The airplane subsequently entered a negative vertical acceleration to about -2.3g. The
airplane pitched up again to about 20° and a vertical acceleration of +4.2g was recorded. The
stall protection stick pusher activated during this pitch up; subsequently, vertical acceleration
lowered to about +2.2g which was followed by a cutout of FDR data. The FDR and cockpit
voice recorder (CVR) were equipped with an impact switch g switch. The CVR continued to
record for an additional 10 minutes as it was equipped with a back-up power supply, however,
the CVR also stop recording data prior to landing at BDL.
The report also added that, “The flight crew reported that they did not experience any remarkable turbulence during the flight, nor during the time immediately surrounding the in-flight upset event.”
Based on this information, rather than turbulence being to blame for the fatality, it appears that some type of mechanical situation developed that forced the airplane to rollercoaster up and down violently. The g ratings mentioned in the report refer to the force of gravity; for that first vertical acceleration, the plane jolted 3.8 times the force of gravity followed by a vertical negative acceleration 2.3 times less the typical force of gravity. To compare, an astronaut lifting off into space on a rocket usually experience about +3 g force.
While turbulence doesn’t seem to be the reason behind this incident, turbulence has injured many passengers in recent weeks and months.
Just days before the New Hampshire flight incident, Lufthansa Flight 469 took off from Austin, Texas on Wednesday with plans to land in Frankfurt, Germany. But after the aircraft encountered severe turbulence over Tennessee at 37,000 feet, the plane diverted to Washington, DC’s Dulles Airport in northern Virginia so that passengers and crew could get the hospitalization they needed.
Roughly 90 minutes into the flight while flight attendants were in the aisle serving food and drinks, the aircraft, an Airbus A330-300 dropped twice within about 20 seconds, plunging the plane down but sending passengers and crew that weren’t secured in their seats up in the air. One flight attendant was launched into the interior ceiling of the aircraft and punctured it, before they collapsed onto the aircraft floor. Injured passengers and crew were treated upon landing, with 7 ultimately requiring additional care in nearby hospitals.
Among the rattled passengers on board were actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila. Camila McConaughey wrote on Instagram, “On Flight last night, I was told plane dropped almost 4,000 feet, 7 people went to the hospital, Everything was flying everywhere.”
There’s been a rash of severe turbulence events in recent months that have sent many passengers to the hospital.
In February, a Newark-Tampa flight operated by United Airlines encountered severe turbulence. When flight 600 finally landed in Tampa, it was met by paramedics that treated passengers and crew at the scene. Ultimately, 1 flight attendant and 2 passengers needed hospitalization after being examined at the airport for injuries sustained during the rough flight.
Earlier this winter, a United Airlines 767 jet encountered severe turbulence on its flight to Houston, Texas. Due to that encounter with rough air, 3 crew members and 2 passengers had to be rushed to the hospital for care upon landing.
The day before the Houston incident earlier this winter, on December 18 , Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 flew through severe turbulence before landing at Honolulu International Airport after originating in Phoenix, Arizona. A Mass Casualty Emergency Event was declared, with dozens of passengers needing care for injuries sustained in the violent ride. Officials with Honolulu Emergency Medical Services and American Medical Response say the flight encountered the extreme turbulence about 30 minutes prior to landing; they treated 36 patients at the airport. 20 patients, ranging from a 14-month old toddler to older adults, were transported to hospitals near the airport, some with serious injuries.
According to a 2021 report from the NTSB, turbulence accounted for more than 37% of all accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The FAA also released data last year that reported on 146 serious injuries related to severe turbulence from 2009 to 2021.