DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Va. – The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after a Lufthansa flight from Texas to Germany was diverted after encountering severe turbulence.
The FAA said in a statement that Lufthansa flight 469 was flying 37,000 feet above Tennessee when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence.
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The Airbus A330 aircraft, which took off from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), was then diverted to Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Virginia.
The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority said the plane landed successfully at IAD, and emergency crews responded to the aircraft to bring seven injured passengers to local hospitals after landing.
Images from a man who said his wife was on the flight show trays of food and other items strewn about the cabin.
On Twitter, the man said people who didn't have their seatbelts fastened were injured when the flight suddenly dropped in altitude before quickly climbing again.
The FAA will continue to investigate the incident.
What is turbulence?
Most passengers hate it, and it's one of the most unpredictable nuisances to pilots. So what exactly is turbulence?
Turbulence is a sudden and sometimes violent shift in airflow. Those irregular motions in the atmosphere create air currents that can cause passengers on an airplane to experience annoying bumps during a flight, or it can be severe enough to throw a plane out of control.
"The wings of an airplane are designed to split the airflow created by the engines pushing the jet through an air mass," FOX Weather meteorologist Jason Frazer said. "It creates a pressure difference above and below the wing. This difference creates an upward force called lift."
And when the lift is greater than gravity, the plane goes up. And when it's equal, the aircraft cruises along on a smooth ride.
"Turbulence comes when there's a disruption in that balance," Frazer said. "Simply put, turbulence is just a change in wind speed and wind direction over a surface – like an airplane."