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Home > Air Turbulence > Does smaller planes wobble more in turbulence?
Does smaller planes wobble more in turbulence?
Weather - Air Turbulence
Monday, 05 March 2007 03:23

Dear Sir,

I am a British/Welsh lady, who has traveled to various places on different airlines, but usually on large planes - Jumbo 747, DC10, Lockheed Tristar and old Boeing 707, etc.

I had never minded flying, and had no bad experiences, enjoying my flights. Apart from the odd bump, nothing was uncomfortable. Then - I flew to Canada/Toronto 1980s on a big Tristar, and the turbulence was such a shock, for nearly the entire flight - alarm bells, roller coaster, and sudden long drops. We landed badly right against a wall! Everyone was upset and even the luggage fell and cupboards banged; But? I never think of a crash - its just the AWFUL "fairground" sinking stomach feeling, and - just as I hate up and down rough roller coasters etc, so I dread the turbulent feeling!!

By the way, coming back Toronto- London was as smooth as silk - so there you go! Since then, all was more or less fine. Then, last winter I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France on a small private jet, Boeing 737 series, the smallest I think. Well, the take offs were hellish and took ages with up climb, falling, up down all the way, like a struggle to get high and both ways rolling feeling, up and down, and never totally smooth at all. It felt so frail and wobbly, like a car in the air, rattling and nothing firm and strong like the jumbos etc. Am I imagining this?

So please, can you advice: -

1) Is it inevitable that the change from 747 big jets to a comparatively tiny plane WILL register frailty, wobbly, and a rough ride?

2) Is turbulence normal on such a small plane?

3) Would the Bay of Biscay or sea crossing to France (Spanish border) or Pyrenees mountains cause a bumpy ride? (Winter)

4) Would the unpleasant flight be the same, unless I fly a big jet, which may be sometimes (mostly in my case) smooth?

5) Are there any larger planes used by airlines on Europe short haul from UK? Otherwise I can*t face it, and I DO wish to see Europe!

6) Perhaps that small holiday hired plane I went on, was old and "bone-shaker"? Who knows?

It seems unfair, that some friends have traveled lots and NEVER had a bump, and I myself even was ok on EVEN 3rd World airlines

7) Or is it merely good or bad luck?!

Many thanks for listening, and I do like your website.


Joan Zia (Mrs)

Hi Joan,

1. It is not necessarily true that smaller planes will ALWAYS be frail, wobbly or rough in turbulence. The main problem is the weather condition existing on the day of your flight. Yes, it is true that a larger plane like the Boeing 747 will weather the storm better? but on a turbulent day, you can be equally tossed around too ? though not as much as on a Boeing 737.

2. Turbulence just doesn't arise just because you are flying a smaller plane ? you can still have a smooth ride on a calm and good day, especially in the morning.

3. Yes, flying over the Pyrenees can be bumpy during winter - especially if you have a strong Westerly wind. The wobble arises because of the mountain waves. Flight over the Bay of Biscay is generally smooth unless a frontal system is over the sea.

4. As mentioned above, bigger planes can generally take turbulence better than smaller ones.

5. Airlines would love to give passengers the smoothest flight whenever they could by using bigger planes? but economic dictates otherwise. For instance, British Airways would not want to use a Boeing 747-400 for the London-Frankfurt route as this aircraft is not specifically a short haul plane but it would be profitable if used on long range flights to places such as Los Angeles, Singapore, Sydney, etc.

6. A "bone-shaker" plane would never be certified safe to fly! Old planes are basically airworthy or else the airlines would be fined for using unsafe aircraft.

7. Does it seem unfair that you get most of the rotten weather? Yes, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose! To a certain extent, luck plays a part too.

I am generally aware of most passengers' fears about flying and will do my best (within my control) to give them a smooth flight every time.

Wish you smooth and safe travel always!


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