At least seven crew members and three passengers were hospitalized when an American Airlines flight from Athens, Greece to Philadelphia hit extreme turbulence on Saturday, terrifying passengers and sending some flying through the cabin.
“Thirty minutes out,” passenger Ian Smith told WPVI. “They were giving us our drinks. The flight attendants were in the last couple rows when they said ‘fasten your seat belts.’ And then they said for the flight attendants to get to their seats, and they didn’t even have time. It started shaking, then it took a big drop. Babies screaming, people in front of us hitting the ceiling.”
“There was just very slight turbulence for about five seconds and then suddenly it felt like the whole plane was in free fall,” NYC resident Alex Ehmke added. He told the Washington Post the pilot apologized for the turbulence and explained another flight had just flown through the area with only “moderate turbulence.”
According to ProPublica reporter Jessica Huseman, Ehmke’s spouse, the turbulence happened just after attendants had handed out drinks, and sent liquid flying so high in the air it pooled in window lights.
While flying within or to the US is increasingly infuriating thanks to shrinking airline seat sizes, intensive and possibly arbitrary security measures, random fees and untrustworthy excuses for delays, the good news is that accidents are becoming less common.
In recent years, the number of fatal US crashes has neared record lows and air travel has “become so safe that pilots routinely go through an entire career without ever experiencing engine trouble serious enough to result in an in-flight shutdown,” per the Wall Street Journal. Statistically, 2016 was one of the safest years in US air travel history.