HOUSTON – Five people were hospitalized after a flight heading for Houston hit turbulence.
"United flight 128 encountered unexpected turbulence while enroute to Houston. Upon arrival, two passengers and three crew members were met by medical personnel and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries."
Passengers took off from Rio de Janeiro's Galealo International Airport at 10:23 p.m. local time. As the flight neared Cancun, Mexico, the plane unexpectedly dropped 500 feet in just seconds, according to FlightAware.com.
According to United, pilots did not have any previous reports of rough air. As the 10.5-hour flight flew into rough air, passengers and crew members were shaken and jostled at 3:25 a.m.
Once the plane landed at 5:28 a.m. local time in Houston, medical crews boarded to attend to those injured. The injured were taken to a hospital, and United reports that they only sustained minor injuries.
Aviation meteorologists at the National Weather Service feel that the weather will continue to be rough due to thunderstorms through Tuesday morning. Downpours, lightning and pea-sized hail are all possible.
Just Sunday, a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix went through severe turbulence just 30 minutes before landing in Honolulu.
Honolulu Emergency Services Director Dr. James Ireland said EMS crews treated 36 people at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, according to a report from KHON. Twenty people, ranging from adults to a 14-month-old, were taken to hospitals, and 11 were in serious condition.
Busy season for air travel
This news hits the over 7 million Americans taking to the air this holiday season, according to AAA. But pilots say not to fear, turbulence is common, and pilots and planes are prepared for it.
"(The pilots) aren't scared at all. It's all a part of aviation," United Airlines pilot Rob Biddle said. "It's a common occurrence. There's very rarely a flight where we don't experience some level of turbulence."
Think of the clashing air currents that make up turbulence as a bump in the road while you are driving.
As you have probably experienced on a flight, the crews occasionally ask passengers to buckle up while flying through an area of possible turbulence. Flight crews also ask passengers to keep seatbelts on during smooth flights just in case the plane encounters unexpected turbulence.
"Turbulence has not caused an airplane to crash," Biddle said. "Airplanes are built very sturdily. In fact, there’s a lot of countermeasures built into the engineering of an airplane, much like a car has different things to make a smooth ride on a bumpy road, airplanes have so many parts to it that’s built into the aircraft to be able to deal with and safely handle the turbulence."