What Are the Different Types of Turbulence and How Do They Work?

If you have been on an airplane, chances are, you have experienced turbulence. Some passengers feel nervous or worry that it may be dangerous, but turbulence is a normal part of air travel and is almost never cause for concern. Turbulence is generally caused by weather changes, specifically wind and pressure changes which affect the streams of air that planes regularly fly through. However, turbulence comes in several different forms. Here is a list of the different types of turbulence and how they are created.

Clear Air Turbulence

There are very strong jet streams at high altitudes which form between the boundaries of warm and cold air. Clear air turbulence occurs outside of clouds at elevations above 15,000 feet and are caused by strong air currents in these jet streams. Pilots typically try to avoid these strong currents but it is not always possible and so they are considered a normal part of flight.

Thermal Turbulence

When cold air hits a warm surface, it tends to form vertical currents of air. Columns of air warmed by the surface of the earth or buildings can clash with prevailing wind patterns and cause moderate turbulence. This form of turbulence is also very common and never dangerous but may be more noticeable in hotter seasons.

Mechanical Turbulence

When the air near the surface of the earth flows over tall structures like mountains, skyscrapers, or tall trees, it can cause turbulence. This happens when the horizontal flow is broken by an obstacle, causing it to move vertically upward and interfere with air corridors which planes fly through. Mountains tend to cause the most mechanical turbulence for their sheer size.

Wake Turbulence

Unlike the previous forms of turbulence, wake turbulence can be a little dangerous. However, air traffic controllers and flight planners take extra caution to keep it from happening. As an aircraft flies, the wings create an air vortex which generates lift, allowing the plane to fly. The end result of this is two separate cylindrical vortexes which are left in an aircraft’s wake and stay in the air for up to a few minutes. If an aircraft flies through the wake of another plane, the rotating air can cause considerable turbulence.

How do Pilots and Flight Planners Work Around Turbulence?

Turbulence is a normal and expected part of flying which pilots and other aircraft personnel are trained to expect and prepare for. In an effort to avoid turbulence, pilots use preflight briefings to detect turbulence along their route of flight before taking off. Once airborne, pilots will also receive “ride reports” from other aircrew who experienced rough air so they have plenty of time to coordinate a path around the turbulence. It’s unavoidable to fly through some light and moderate turbulence at times but if the interference begins to pose a risk, pilots will quickly climb or descend to a safe and smooth altitude to keep themselves and passengers comfortable and safe.

Wrapping Up

Are you an airline owner or operator looking for high-quality aviation parts? Get in touch now with the team at ASAP Aviation Unlimited. We are one of the leading providers of aviation components. As an FAA AC 0056B and AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015 accredited aviation parts distributor, we can provide parts that have been rigorously tested for quality assurance. Our team has a vast inventory of over 6 billion parts, including new, old, and obsolete parts. Get started by submitting an Instant RFQ and receive a competitive quote.


Recent Twitter Posts

Semiconductor's Certifications and Memberships
Thank You for Visiting!

Remember, If You Want A Competitive Quote for Parts In Fifteen Minutes Or Less, You Can Simply Fill Out the Request for Quote form On This Website’s Home Page.

Request for Quote

We use cookies to ensure that we give you an amazing experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it.