Most flights are smooth - right?


New member
I hate flying for all the same reasons as everybody else on here, and in particular I hate turbulence!

But to be honest, I've only ever encountered bad turbulence once in my life, and even that was probably mild by a pilot's standards.

Most of the flights I've been on have been smooth, or smooth with very small 'nudges' here and there.

Is it true to say that in general, turbulence isn't that common? Given the nature of this site, it's easy to start thinking 'how bad will the turbulence be' instead of 'I wonder if there'll be any turbulence'.

And one last question: I'm convinced that daylight flying is usually smoother then night flying. Is there any truth in this?


Staff member
If you look at it from a percentage wise standpoint, or strictly a numbers game, I do believe that a majority of flights are smooth. However, there are days where a lot of flights could be quite rough. It all depends on the weather. And what concerns people the most is 'their' flight. It doesn't matter if 99% of flights are smooth, it only matters if 'their' flight is.

As for day time vs night time flying, I would think that there really isn't much difference in general. I would guess that night time is smoother because there is less heat on the ground and generally less activity, but I could be very wrong. I think though, that people prefer daytime turbulence because they can see what's going on.


New member
I would say most flights are probably smooth. Most likely you'll find small patches of light chops here and there, but for the most part the flight will be smooth.

The main causes of turbulence are: storms, jetstream, and thermals/wind.

In regards to storms, pilots will stay away from them and avoid them altogether. Sometimes you will have to fly close to a storm if you are descending to the airport or ascending from an airport and that may cause some turbulence.

Jetstream: it always gets a little bumpy when you cross a jetstream, so if you have a long cross country flight your chances of finding bumps at some point are higher. However, pilots rely on other pilot's reports of turbulence to try to find a smoother ride at a different altitude.

Themals and wind: unfortunately not much you can do. These are more of a problem in warm weather and in the afternoon (Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc...). But again, pilots will try to find a smoother ride if possible. Landing and take off could be the problem, though.

In my opinion flying at night is smoother because you avoid the thermals. On the other hand it gets trickier for a pilot to evaluate storms because he/she will lack the visual part and will have to rely on the radar to evaluate a cell.

Turbulence is just a part of flying. It would help you to think about it that way and to realize that turbulence doesn't bother pilots much and it is just waves of air...much like waves in the water. The airplane will not fall.

I forgot to mention CAT (clear air turbulence). This is usually moderate to severe. The good thing is that if you fly after mid-morning there will be plenty of pilot reports and your pilot will use a different altitude to avoid any problems.