While people were enjoying their on-board lunches, turbulence occurred.
Once the aircraft encountered extreme turbulence, passengers on a Lufthansa flight from Austin to Frankfurt had a serious scare. Following an unexpected landing in Washington, D.C., seven passengers were sent to the hospital.
Significant turbulence on a Lufthansa flight
Flight LH469 left Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) at 17:08 local time on March 1 in order to reach Frankfurt Airport (FRA), but it ran into turbulence over Tennessee/West Virginia.
There were numerous injuries sustained by passengers after the Airbus A330-300 (registration: D-AIKK) traveled into a “unanticipated” storm pattern. The plane, according to FlightAware data, fell from 37,000 feet to 24,000 feet and stayed there while making a U-turn for Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), where it safely touched down at 21:10 local time.
The Washington Post stated that passengers were eating in-flight when the turbulence hit, sending food, silverware, and other debris flying about the cabin. The turbulence persisted for many minutes before settling down, during which time several passengers who weren’t buckled up are reported to have smacked the cabin’s roof.
According to a statement from Lufthansa, the pilots made “an unscheduled landing at Washington Dulles International Airport as a precautionary measure” after the flight “encountered brief but strong turbulence roughly 90 minutes after departure.”
Seven visit a hospital.
Even if it’s not unusual for one or two passengers to avoid a stray bag during turbulence, the fact that seven passengers needed to be taken to the hospital speaks volumes about how serious this occurrence was. Many food trays and pieces of silverware can be seen strewn over the floor in photos posted on social media, and one traveler claimed there was “shattered glass” everywhere, which might explain why a number of passengers suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital care.
See our page on turbulence types for more information.
According to one traveler who spoke to the Washington Post, “food flew flying into the air, striking and even damage the ceiling of the plane,” adding that the passenger in front of them was severely wounded and had to be wheeled off the aircraft.
an FAA investigation
The event will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which will probably focus on how the airplane ended up flying directly into a severe storm pattern. The organization has pushed for more frequent exchange of turbulence observations and the modernization of the Pilot Report system, along with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).