May 15, 2023 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Airbus A350-1041, Unexpected Turbulence Over N. Africa

unexpected turbulence

A Commercial Air Transport (Passenger) plane, an Airbus A350-1041, was in transit over the coast of North Africa when it encountered unexpected turbulence on January 22, 2023.

The Airbus A350-1041 entered unexpected turbulence during the cruise over the coast . A member of cabin crew in the galley was lifted off their feet and when they fell back to the floor they injured their shoulder and hip. A second cabin crew member received a minor cut from fragments of a cup dropped by the original cabin crew member when they fell.

History of the flight

While in the cruise at FL360/M0.85, with autopilot engaged and passenger seatbelt signs
off, the aircraft encountered unexpected turbulence. The flight crew immediately switched
the seatbelt signs on, but the turbulence event came and went very quickly.

As a precaution, even though there were no more instances of turbulence, the seatbelt signs
were kept on until the cabin crew confirmed to the commander that the cabin was secure.

At this point, he was also informed that two of the cabin crew had been injured as a result of
the turbulence. The most severely injured person had been drinking a cup of tea when the
turbulence started and was moving to the galley sink to dispose of it when the severity of
the aircraft’s motion lifted them off their feet. They then fell to the floor, suffering injuries to
their shoulder and hip as a result. One of the other cabin crew members received a minor
cut to their ankle caused by fragments from the ceramic cup which had shattered after being
dropped by their falling colleague.

Having taken medical advice, the commander elected to continue to the planned destination where the seriously injured crew member was taken to hospital. It was later established they had sustained a badly bruised shoulder and two pelvic fractures.

Recorded information

Analysis of flight data recordings confirmed that the turbulence event lasted for
20 seconds, during which the vertical g loading varied between 0 G and +1.47 G. The
aircraft’s speed briefly reached a maximum of M0.892, with the time above MMO
1 (M0.89) being less than one second.

While the speed was above MMO, the Master Warning sounded but the maximum Mach reached did not activate the MMO warning (trigger threshold M0.896). The aircraft’s altitude varied between 35,950 ft and 36,080 ft, with a vertical speed variation of between +1,100 ft/min and -1,460 ft/min. The autopilot
remained engaged throughout the event. Post-flight data analysis confirmed no load
exceedances had occurred during the event.

Commander’s observation

While it would not have prevented the crew member being injured walking to the sink to dispose of their hot tea, the commander commented that this event was a reminder, to passengers and crew alike, that unexpected turbulence is a normal operating hazard and wearing seatbelts when seated is a sensible precaution, even if the seatbelt signs are not illuminated.

Source/credit for content: AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Branch) “AAIB investigation to Airbus A350-1041, G-XWB,” Aircraft Type and Registration: Airbus A350-1041, G-XWBL, No & Type of Engines: 2 Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 turbofan engines, Year of Manufacture: 2021 (Serial no: 547), Date & Time (UTC): 22 January 2023 at 0519 hrs. Location: In flight over the coast of North Africa, Type of Flight: Commercial Air Transport (Passenger).

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