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How severe can turbulence get? Pilot and aviation attorney weighs in after Austin incident

This past week a flight that landed in Austin experienced turbulence so bad that it sent two people to the hospital.

AUSTIN — If you fly at all, you’ve likely experienced it and it can be nerve-racking.

We’re talking about turbulence. When you get on a plane, one of the last things you want is to get off the plane injured. This doesn’t happen often but it does happen and turbulence is a big reason why.

So, what is turbulence?

By FAA’s definition, it is “air movement created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms.”

And, oftentimes, it’s unexpected.

“Passengers will be tossed about particularly if they’re not belted or restrained, flight attendants who are on their feet are at risk of serious injury,” said Mike Slack, pilot and aviation attorney.

RELATED: 2 injured on flight diverted to Austin airport after encountering turbulence

Slack said some turbulence is worse than others. The FAA reported 17 injuries due to turbulence last year and 44 the year before.

Just this past week, an American Airlines flight that landed in Austin experienced turbulence so severe that it sent two people to the hospital. Off camera, a passenger told us it was one big bump that did it and it sent one person flying from the bathroom. A passenger and a flight attendant suffered knee and neck pain, both minor injuries.

But you won’t see this incident listed in the 2018 report. That’s because the FAA is only required to report it if those were serious injuries and they were hospitalized for more than 48 hours.

So, what can you do to avoid getting injured on a flight?

“The best thing a passenger can do is stay in their seat, and stay in their seat with a secure lap belt,” said Slack.

Stay buckled up and ride the storm.

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