Aviation News

April 18, 2012

Audio: Severe Turbulence Injures Four Aboard US Airways Flight to Denver

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By: Matt Molnar
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A US Airways Airbus A319 at LaGuardia Airport
A US Airways Airbus A319 at LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by Ryan Spellman)
Two passengers and two flight attendants were injured when a US Airways flight hit severe turbulence while approaching into Denver Saturday night.

US Airways Flight 496, an Airbus A319 flying from Phoenix to Denver, was descending through 32,000 feet when it hit “severe mountain wave turbulence,” according to one of the plane’s pilots, as recorded in conversations with air traffic controllers.

One flight attendant was hospitalized with broken bones, according to The Aviation Herald. Another flight attendant and two passengers suffered minor injuries.

The plane’s cabin ceiling was damaged, likely from the force of people slamming against it as the plane suddenly dipped.

Other flights heard on the Denver Approach frequency, including an American Airlines Boeing 757 that had just departed Denver for Miami, were warned of icing and precipitation in the area. A private plane on approach to Denver also reported moderate turbulence and precip on descent.

Mountain waves are essentially waves of air that change speed and direction when they flow over a mountain, and can be exacerbated by certain cloud formations and atmospheric conditions. The effect of a mountain wave on an aircraft is similar to that of a boat sailing over a wave. A number of airliners have catastrophic run-ins with mountain waves, including a BOAC Boeing 707 that was ripped apart and crashed near Mount Fuji, and an Evergreen Boeing 747 which lost an engine while flying near Anchorage.

The NTSB is investigating the accident.

[hat tip to upupandagay]