From the surreal panic of flight attendants being thrown around to the eerie calm of helpless passengers, travellers have shared tales of the most turbulent flights they've ever been on.

Fliers have revealed the terrifying moments when they've been slammed against the cabin ceiling or heard grown men screaming, on a number of online forums.

Others have expressed the catharsis of kissing their loved ones goodbye then living to tell the tale, the Daily Mail reports.

Frequent fliers have taken to Quora, and Flyertalk to answer the same question: What happened during extreme turbulence?


Read on for some of the most shocking in-flight experiences, which show no matter how bad turbulence may feel, more often than not it's survivable.

In-flight injuries

There's a reason cabin crew ask you to wear your seat belt during a flight, as passengers can suffer horrific injuries if they suddenly hurtle out of their seat.

But flight attendants who spend much of a journey on their feet are at risk if turbulence unexpectedly hits.

Traveller Chris Huffman took to Quora to describe a night flight from Atlanta to Kinshasa on a 747 aircraft. He said: 'We were somewhere above the coastal mountains of the Cameroon when we began to shake, rattle and roll.

"The FAs [flight attendants] checked everyone for seat belts and went about their business. Then we hit an air 'gap' and dropped thousands of feet in seconds (or less). One FA was tossed across the plane and broke her back. It was horrible."

Pilot Robert Iodice shared a tale of flying a Cessna Skyhawk while practising for his private pilot's licence.

He said: "I apparently had not tightened my lap belt adequately. The turbulence was so severe that I slammed my head into the cockpit ceiling. I had a sore neck for days after that."

Keeping your seatbelt tightly fastened really is that important. Photo / 123RF
Keeping your seatbelt tightly fastened really is that important. Photo / 123RF

Preparing for impact

Many revealed that during a bout of turbulence they genuinely thought they would crash.

On his way back to France from Turkey, Pierre Le Poulain experienced the plane shaking violently. He reported: "Everybody went dead silent, waiting for the something, a sign that would tell us if we would die today or if we would make it.

"The girl sitting next to me kept whispering to herself "f***, f***, f***"."

After half an hour of intensifying turbulence, Mr Le Poulain accepted that he would crash. He said: "I tried to relax my thoughts and told myself 'if you are going to die today, do it properly'.

"I put my headphone over my ears, decided that the Pink Floyd would be a nice song to die to and waited for the inevitable."

Thankfully, he lived to tell the tale.

Also feeling helpless as his aircraft plummeted into what felt like "freefall", flier Pranay Chaturvedi was on a flight from India to Singapore with his wife when turbulence hit.

He said: "Some of the passengers screamed, some were shocked, we held hands, looked at each other and without saying anything, kissed."

Sickening experience

Less life-threatening but equally memorable was Ian Sawyer's flight over eastern Kakadu in Australia in a small six-seater aircraft.

He said: "It was a very hot day, in the mid-40 degree C, and the thermals rising off the baked cliff faces below were causing the aircraft to be thrown around in almost every direction you can think of.

"[I was] seated next to a girl who never took her head out of a sick bag for the whole hour of the flight, it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences.'

Pilot's skill

Many passengers praised and acknowledged the expertise of their pilots during their accounts. One surprising tale came from an Airliners community member called Kubus who said during turbulence: "I looked a little further ahead, nothing but blackness, lit up by lighting. Once again the seatbelt saved the head."

However once it had ended, he admitted: "I have never seen or felt a smoother landing, after all the shaking, the swings, and turbulence.

"It was as if someone just turned off everything and let us glide down gently onto the runway. Since I was the last one off the plane, I asked the pilot about the landing. He said he flew almost the whole trip by hand."

One flier, Parth Sharma, described a scenario where his plane circled four times over Phuket, Thailand, after a storm hit.

He shared: "The flight was shaking vigorously for a good 20 minutes including at least a couple of sudden drops (elevator effect). Needless to say I was having heart-in-mouth experience."

He was seated separately from his wife during the journey and afterwards asked her how she fared. He said: "I asked my wife how was it (with a similar smile when you had an adventure and are happy that you are alive). Turns out she was sleeping the entire duration."

How dangerous is turbulence?

On the subject of what happens to an aircraft during an episode of turbulence, Patrick Smith, an active airline pilot and author said: "During turbulence, the pilots are not fighting the controls.

"Planes are designed with what we call positive stability, meaning that when nudged from their original point in space, by their nature they wish to return there.

"The best way of handling rough air is to effectively ride it out, hands-off. (Some autopilots have a turbulence mode that desensitizes the system, to avoid over-controlling.)

"It can be uncomfortable, but the jet is not going to flip upside down.

"For what it's worth, thinking back over the whole history of modern commercial aviation, I cannot recall a single jetliner crash caused by turbulence, strictly speaking.

"Airplanes are engineered to withstand an extreme amount of stress, and the amount of turbulence required to, for instance, tear off a wing, is far beyond anything you'll ever experience."