British Airways Crew Members Sustain Severe Injuries On Turbulence-Hit Flight From Singapore

Five British Airways crew members sustained serious injuries on Thursday last week as London-bound Flight BA12 was hit by what has been described as the worst turbulence the airline has seen in years. The flight was forced to return to its departure destination, Singapore, with some crew members even requiring hospitalisation. The incident comes as the scientific community continues to highlight the growing threat that turbulence will pose in the coming years.

Underside of British Airways aircraft is visible flying through clear skies.
Some crew members on board turbulence-hit Flight BA12 had to be hospitalised © British Airways

British Airways Crew Members Sustain Severe Injuries Due To Extreme Turbulence

On Thursday 15th June, Flight BA12, departing from Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN) at around 11:20 p.m. en route to London Heathrow (LHR), was forced to return to Singapore just 4 hours after take-off, shortly after passing over the Andaman Sea.

The plane was buffeted by storm conditions in the area and was consequently affected by severe, sustained turbulence. The sheer force of the turbulence led to five BA crew members being injured, including one staff member who suffered concussion and one flight attendant who required surgery for an ankle injury.

The severity of the turbulence and injuries sustained by the crew left the pilots with no option but to abort the flight shortly before passing the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean and return to Singapore; the plane landed back at its departure destination at around 4 a.m. local time on Friday. Upon landing, the injured crew members were transferred to local hospitals for treatment, and passengers were provided with hotel accommodation and booked onto alternative flights.

The plane in question, a Boeing 777-300ER, was grounded to allow for further examination of any structural damage caused to the aircraft; it was eventually given authorisation to fly to the UK on Saturday without any passengers on board.

A spokesman for British Airways said at the time:

“Safety is always our priority, and we’re looking after our crew after one of our flights experienced a rare episode of severe turbulence. Our highly trained team on board reassured customers, and the aircraft returned to Singapore as a precaution”.

Singapore Changi Airport to Heathrow Airport
Flight BA12 had departed Singapore and was en route to London © Great Circle Mapper

Turbulence Is The Worst Yet To Come?

The main causes of clear-air turbulence are wind shear, defined as an abrupt change in the speed and direction of wind, and changes in the jet stream, affecting an aircraft’s motion and altitude and making appropriate flight control more difficult. Members of the scientific community continue to highlight the dangers posed by increased turbulence and how this threat will continue to worsen as a result of climate change.

Whilst turbulence is not uncommon on flights, with light turbulence, defined as a rise or drop of around 3.5 ft, being practically unnoticeable to passengers and moderate turbulence, with a rise or drop of roughly 10–20 ft, possibly leading to spilled drinks, severe turbulence (a rise or drop of up to 100 ft) poses a significant injury risk to passengers and crew members, particularly those not wearing seat belts.

In December last year, as an example, a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, was hit by severe turbulence shortly before landing, with reported injuries including bruises, lacerations and serious head injuries. The incident was later blamed on thunderstorms in the area at the time.

In addition to the safety implications of worsening turbulence highlighted above, the aviation industry will need to prepare itself for the significant financial and logistical consequences as well, including the risk of more frequent structural damage to planes, increased flight cancellations and incorporating the avoidance of certain routes and areas into flight planning.

Were you affected by the extreme turbulence on Flight BA12 last week? Have you ever experienced extreme turbulence on a flight? Let us know in the comments!

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Rachel Dunster
Rachel Dunster
Aviation Reporter