Hawaiian Airlines Flight Hits Severe Turbulence, Dozens Injured

Hawaiian Airlines Flight Hits Severe Turbulence, Dozens Injured

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This is one of the worst severe turbulence cases we’ve seen in quite some time…

Honolulu-bound Hawaiian A330 encounters severe turbulence

This incident happened on Sunday, December 18, 2022, on Hawaiian Airlines flight HA35 from Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL). The 6hr28min flight was operated by a roughly nine-year-old Airbus A330-200 with the registration code N393HA, and was carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew members.

Roughly 30 minutes before landing in Honolulu, while cruising at 36,000 feet, the plane encountered some severe turbulence, which caused several people to fly out of their seats and hit the ceiling of the plane. This happened right around the time the plane was starting its descent.

In total, 36 people were injured, including 11 serious injuries. Three of the injured people were flight attendants. This incident triggered a “mass casualty emergency,” whereby dozens of firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel, met the aircraft, after it landed at around 10:50AM at gate 10A.

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians treatment patients, ranging in age from 14 months to adult. Injuries included everything from head injuries, to cuts, to bruises, to loss of consciousness. A total of 20 people were taken to emergency rooms. Of the 11 serious injuries, nine were in stable condition.

While air pockets are common, this was an extreme case, as you can guess based on the number of injuries.

One passenger says there were two “intense” drops of altitude, and one was so strong that her boyfriend’s water bottle flew into the ceiling and cracked it. WOW. Another passenger says her mother was sitting during the incident, but hit the ceiling, as she “hadn’t had a chance to buckle her seatbelt.”

This is a good reminder to always wear your seatbelt

Aviation is obviously an incredibly safe form of transportation, so we often forget the simplest way we can protect ourselves when flying, which is to wear our seatbelts. While there was no advance warning of the severe turbulence, the fasten seatbelt sign was on at the time of the incident, as the flight was starting its descent.

As you may have guessed, those injured worst all didn’t have their seatbelts on. If you’re buckled in, your only real risk is another object becoming airborne and hitting you while seated. Meanwhile if you’re not buckled in, you could become that object flying through the cabin.

You never know when severe turbulence could occur, and wearing your seatbelt on a plane isn’t exactly uncomfortable. In fairness, even though severe turbulence isn’t totally rare, it is uncommon to have this many injuries on a flight.

Dozens were injured on a Hawaiian Airlines flight

Bottom line

Dozens of passengers were injured after a Honolulu-bound Hawaiian Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence around 30 minutes before landing. The turbulence was so bad that those who didn’t have their seatbelts fastened were lifted out of their seats, with some hitting the ceiling.

While this is one of the worst severe turbulence incidents we’ve heard of in quite some time, I suppose it could have still been much worse.

What do you make this Hawaiian Airlines severe turbulence incident?

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  1. Jimmy K Member

    This article interests me greatly because of an experience I had on Akasa Air in India this week. Flying with a lap infant I was told they don't carry special lap infant seat belt extensions. Is this normal? I was advised that I had to "secure the infant" outside of my own seat belt by holding on to her. I was pretty perplexed and said that on every other flight I'd taken with my child...

    This article interests me greatly because of an experience I had on Akasa Air in India this week. Flying with a lap infant I was told they don't carry special lap infant seat belt extensions. Is this normal? I was advised that I had to "secure the infant" outside of my own seat belt by holding on to her. I was pretty perplexed and said that on every other flight I'd taken with my child I'd been given a seat belt extension, but was again informed they don't carry them. Does anyone have any further info on this? Incidentally, i then spotted that one of the cabin crew was actually using the very thing i was asking for, for the manual safety demonstration!
    I imagine it would have been pretty hard to hold my daughter if we had hit turbulence like that mentioned in this article.

  2. Graham Guest

    I think this would be more commonly described as wind shear. I encountered it once on a flight from London to Barcelona over the Bay of Biscay, the plane dropped 1000 ft. I was strapped in but a flight attendant hit the ceiling. On this one it seems to have happened twice.

  3. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    If this happened 30 min before landing, why were so many passengers up and around and not seated/fastened in? Every flight I've had lately like 45 min before they have already taken drinks, headphones, and made you sit up. Sounds odd that close to landing.

  4. BradStPete Gold

    Former F/A here... PLEASE always keep your seatbelt " comfortably fastened while seated " seriously. Parents: your children while rocket across the cabin in a nano second. Seen it ! PLEASE folks..keep 'em fastened. The cabin ceiling really hurts !

  5. Hawaiian Guest

    Looking at the radar, I wonder why the pilots went straight through the storm instead of around it. Especially given the incoming and outbound flights to HNL reporting turbulence. Makes zero sense. Check the radar.

  6. D3kingg Guest

    I really don’t mind turbulence. From the comfort of my lie flat seat in first class I’ll sleep through it or maybe toss and turn

    1. Carrie Member

      I do mind turbulence from the comfort of my lie flat seat ...... sipping champagne becomes impossible!

  7. Austin Guest

    According to flightradar24 the flight dropped around 600 feet in a matter of seconds! WOW

  8. Weekendsurfer Guest

    I flew out of HNL headed to the west coast a little before this flight and had a few bumps about 30 minutes into the flight. So glad I didn’t fly sooner.

    My toddler son always flies in an FAA-approved car seat. While he’s no longer lap-infant size, being secured in a car seat for his size rather than just buckled in provides more comfort for him and more peace of mind for me. I’d recommend it if parents can swing it.

  9. BallardFlyer Guest

    It's the worst storm (including passing / near hurricanes) in 2-3 years in most of Hawaii starting yesterday, Sunday, forecast through Tuesday. Several inches of rain, gale winds, heavy thunderstorms. Unfortunate that so many were injured. I hope everyone makes a full recovery.

  10. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The National Weather Service said there was a line of severe weather that this plane went through so this was not clear air turbulence. Flights between the mainland and Hawaii follow pretty constant paths so the chances are fairly high that other aircraft experienced turbulence.
    The NTSB is investigating so it will likely become apparent what happened but it is possible that this flight might not have taken precautions that should have been necessary...

    The National Weather Service said there was a line of severe weather that this plane went through so this was not clear air turbulence. Flights between the mainland and Hawaii follow pretty constant paths so the chances are fairly high that other aircraft experienced turbulence.
    The NTSB is investigating so it will likely become apparent what happened but it is possible that this flight might not have taken precautions that should have been necessary for the type of weather this flight experienced.

    1. FlyerDon Guest

      I think it’s quite likely the crew tried to “top” a cell or cells rather than deviate around them. If they really were at 40,000ft, which I heard they were, that’s really high for an Airbus, and could be an indication they were trying to go over the weather. I agree with you, the NTSB should be able to figure this out pretty quickly.

  11. VC Guest

    And a timely reminder on how strong the plane is, and not to worry about plane falling apart….

  12. Franklin Guest

    Its a great reminder to wear your seatbelts, but is it not also a reminder to use the seatbelt sign more juduciously? Airlines in the US often keep the light on for huge streches of time, and they often turn it on (and leave it on) after a single tiny bump.

    At that level of overuse, the people (including the FAs!) stop taking the thing seriously. By comparison, Japanese and most European airlines use...

    Its a great reminder to wear your seatbelts, but is it not also a reminder to use the seatbelt sign more juduciously? Airlines in the US often keep the light on for huge streches of time, and they often turn it on (and leave it on) after a single tiny bump.

    At that level of overuse, the people (including the FAs!) stop taking the thing seriously. By comparison, Japanese and most European airlines use it juduciously, such that when the light goes on, you know you really ought to buckle up.

    1. Paul Car New Member

      This is true!

      I flew YVR-MUC in October. The seatbelt sign was used once between reaching cruising altitude and starting our descent. It was a calm flight but the 5-6 small pockets of mild turbulence during the overnight flight were judged to be not worth waking passengers for by the Lufhtansa flight crew. This made for a very peaceful flight.

  13. RealTaylor Member

    Agree with Evan - this is a good reminder why lap infants should be banned. It creates a serious danger for babies and for other passengers who could be injured by unsecured babies flying through the cabin.

    If parents aren't willing to spend some extra money to purchase a seat to protect their infants, the government should mandate it like with carseats.

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Yeah, I'm not for the Government mandating more flying regulations. No thanks.

  14. Lukas Guest

    "medical technicians treatment patients"

    I think you meant to write "treated patients".

  15. JH Guest

    Just a reminder…you stay at FL310…it’s the airplane that changes altitude.

    1. Frank Guest

      Not true. The A330 has an approximately 18 foot cabin diameter. If the plane drops more than that, you are going to be forced to drop too. Unless you are neutrally charged and smaller than an atom, like say a neutrino, in which case you'll pass right through the fuselage. Are you a neutrino, JH?

  16. Evan Guest

    @Ben, that water bottle cracking the ceiling is a chilling reminder of what can happen to infants who are not properly restrained throughout the flight.

    Please consider a follow-up post on the dangers of flying with lap infants. On this issue, look at the lifelong crusade of former United FA Jan Brown, who was on United flight 232 when it crashed. Per training, she had to instruct parents of lap children to PLACE THEM ON THE FLOOR prior to the crash landing.

    1. 9volt Member

      I remember that flight. I always thought that crash procedure for infants was dubious. I mean, it's not like this was the 20s or 30s where restraint mechanics were not well understood. This was 1989, where thousands of crash tests were performed and studied.

      With a baby placed on the floor, you have the open space in front of and behind, plus either side, not to mention the open space above it. Surely, this could...

      I remember that flight. I always thought that crash procedure for infants was dubious. I mean, it's not like this was the 20s or 30s where restraint mechanics were not well understood. This was 1989, where thousands of crash tests were performed and studied.

      With a baby placed on the floor, you have the open space in front of and behind, plus either side, not to mention the open space above it. Surely, this could be realized even in 1989.

      To make matters worse, there was some sort of promotion that involved children, so this flight in particular had more children than normal on it.

      Ugh. Anyway, this flight always gets to me.

  17. Craig Guest

    30 mins before landing is about when they usually make an announcement about the seatbelt sign going on soon and tons of people get up to visit the toilets and stow laptops, etc. You'd expect a lot of people to be unbuckled.

  18. John Guest

    Ben,
    That is busy air space coming into Honolulu....Do you (or pilot readers) know how wide a swath those air pockets tend to exist in? Would lots of other planes be experiencing it--even if not to such a severe degree?
    Would air traffic control start diverting planes around and away from this area? Does an incident like this prompt a NTSB report?

    Thanks for any insight....

    1. D3kingg Guest

      No bruddah. You need to work on your Aloha spirit.

  19. Vishwa Dharm Samvad Guest

    One of the worst severe turbulence incidents we’ve heard of in quite some time

  20. JP Guest

    It still baffles me why people refuses to wear a seatbelt, in cars, planes or any other forms of transport where sudden jerks of movements can happen.
    Multiple times I've witnessed people pretend to have the seatbelt in place instead of actually buckling the damn thing, who are you trying to fool and what brownie points do you get even when you get away with it. In cases of collision, it's not the flight...

    It still baffles me why people refuses to wear a seatbelt, in cars, planes or any other forms of transport where sudden jerks of movements can happen.
    Multiple times I've witnessed people pretend to have the seatbelt in place instead of actually buckling the damn thing, who are you trying to fool and what brownie points do you get even when you get away with it. In cases of collision, it's not the flight attendant checking that gets hurt, it's you.
    In most cases, seltbelts, especially on flights, aren't uncomfortable anyway...

    1. Klaus Guest

      Yes. Totally agree for those sitting in their seats unbuckled.
      I do have empathy for those crewmembers that we’re preparing the cabin for arrival as well as for those passengers stowing their hand bags in the overhead bins.

    2. Tom Guest

      On the other hand I never understand those passengers who are constantly popping up and down getting things out of their bag or putting them back. Just put what you need for the flight into a smaller bag and keep that with you.

  21. John K Guest

    Given recent reports about climate change, I wonder whether cases of severe turbulence might be on the rise. Any studies to support this? Am somewhat concerned...

    1. Charles Guest

      Given recent reports about climate change, I wonder whether cases of severe turbulence might be reducing. Any studies to support this? Am somewhat relieved.

    2. Pete Diamond

      I have some NFTs to sell that you’d love.

    3. GBOAC Diamond

      Seems to me John K asked a perfectly reasonable question. Notice that he didn't make a blatant statement one way or another; just expressed his curiosity.

    4. Jonathan Guest

      In fact, yes, there are plenty of scientists who believe that climate change will worsen air turbulence. They're on record saying as much.

    5. dander Guest

      Which science experts are you referring too? True climate scientists or some other scientist that knows very little about climate but agrees with the climate scientist because its the thing to do?

    6. Jonathan Guest

      dander: I'll take ANY scientist over a culture warrior with an axe to grind.

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Weekendsurfer Guest

I flew out of HNL headed to the west coast a little before this flight and had a few bumps about 30 minutes into the flight. So glad I didn’t fly sooner. My toddler son always flies in an FAA-approved car seat. While he’s no longer lap-infant size, being secured in a car seat for his size rather than just buckled in provides more comfort for him and more peace of mind for me. I’d recommend it if parents can swing it.

5
BradStPete Gold

Former F/A here... PLEASE always keep your seatbelt " comfortably fastened while seated " seriously. Parents: your children while rocket across the cabin in a nano second. Seen it ! PLEASE folks..keep 'em fastened. The cabin ceiling really hurts !

4
Jonathan Guest

In fact, yes, there are plenty of scientists who believe that climate change will worsen air turbulence. They're on record saying as much.

4
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