Recent flights through Europe and the Middle East


Super Lifetime Elite

This is a bit late, but two weeks ago I returned from a trip where I flew seven times in about two weeks from the US to the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe. Six out of the seven trips were not too bad, even the ones that involved flying over mountains and through rain storms. All of them had turbulence, but only one flight was the terrible kind that I always dread!

That one flight was the one that went from Dubai to Frankfurt. I've flown over the Persian Gulf many times and while I did have one bad experience in the past, it's normally a fairly peaceful, smooth route. I checked the weather maps on this site a few hours before the flight that day and nothing was forecasted. Other than some clouds and light drizzle, there were no signs of bad weather. I was prepared to sleep after the plane took off in order to survive the next flight from Frankfurt back to the US, which did have turbulence spots on the map!

Well, pretty much the minute the plane took off turbulence started to occur. There were some immediate bumps and then it seemed to get worse over the next five minutes. Then for the next one-and-a-half hours it was a series of constant turbulence that prevented anyone from leaving their seats. The lights on the plane remained off and the seatbelt sign remained on. It felt like a roller coaster with dives, twists, turns, and plunges. It made it more unpleasant being in the dark in the back half of the plane. I tried to remain calm thinking the whole time that it would end soon and that we were just passing through an isolated storm, but at some points I couldn't catch my breath because we were being jerked so hard against the seatbelts. Then the pilot came on an apologized. He said this weather wasn't forecasted and it was bad at all levels so we'd just have to wait about another 20 minutes or so for it to get better. Finally, we passed over land and things seemed to improve so the lights came on the flight attendants started the meal service. The turbulence seemed to remain the rest of the flight though. It wasn't as bad as the first two hours, but not smooth, either.

Oddly enough, the next flight from Frankfurt to IAD wasn't that bad. There were three times when the seatbelt sign was on for about an hour each time and things were a bit harrowing, but it wasn't severe. The only thing that I asked a flight attendant about were the many planes that seemed to be flying parallel to us the entire time. She said that every hour, 800 planes cross the Atlantic. Is that true? She said there is a minimum distance that planes maintain from each other even though it doesn't look that way. At one point, a huge plane was flying right next to us and we could see all the details. The guy in front of me was taking pictures! I don't recall seeing that many planes on past flights, but that's probably because they didn't force us to close the blinds on this flight so we could see out the window the whole itme.

I guess what helped on this trip was being more educated than in the past and thinking rationally. Whereas at times in the past I'd think the wings on the plane might break off if the turbulence was bad enough or that there was no way to know if there would be turbulence, this time I thought about how safe flying is and how there are a lot of sophisticated tools used to guide the pilots. Even in the bad turbulence from Dubai, we were flying in a 747 and I thought about what a big plane it is and how strong the wings and engines are. I just wonder why they couldn't forecast the bad weather? The same thing happened on a flight last year where it was awful the whole time and the pilot said at the end, "none of this was forecasted." So can things really change that quickly?

At this point, I can't say I really enjoy flying, but it's also not terrible. The information available on this site did contribute a lot to making flying a better experience!


Staff member
1. Things certainly do change that quickly.
2. I'm glad you enjoy the site!

... and the pilot said at the end, "none of this was forecasted." So can things really change that quickly?

The information available on this site did contribute a lot to making flying a better experience!


Lifetime Elite
Forecasting turbulence is, even with all the technology we have today, a very difficult thing to do. The few occasions where I experienced severe turbulence were all not forecasted on the weather charts and the numerous times where mod/sev was forecasted it wasn't that big of a deal..
Each day there are tracks established over the atlantic which most planes follow. Because of GPS all planes on the same track will fly exactly that particular track. Some pilots elect to fly 1 or 2 miles left or right of that track to reduce the chance of collision if they have to make an emergency descent, that's why sometimes you see planes fly very near to your plane (although on a different altitude). Pretty nice view if you ask me ;-)