An airline passenger suffered fractured ribs during a freak accident onboard a domestic flight in Japan earlier this year despite wearing a seatbelt when turbulence rocked the airplane shortly before landing.
Details of the accident onboard an Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Starflyer have recently been released in a progress report into the investigation by Japan’s Transportation Safety Board.
The aircraft was operating a short flight between Tokyo Haneda to Kitakyushu in January when it hit turbulence on the final approach for landing. The aircraft was swung from side to side during the incident causing one of the passengers sitting near the back of the plane to be pushed into the armrest.
The passenger told investigators that he immediately felt pain to the right side of his body, but the pain didn’t go away so, after several days, he decided to go to the hospital for a checkup. Doctors discovered that the male passenger had suffered fractured ribs as a result of being pushed into the armrest.
Japenese accident investigators say they have already carried out interviews with those involved in the accident and have analysed the weather forecast on the day that the accident took place.
The investigation will now focus on what caused the accident and what could have been done to prevent the passenger from being injured.
Despite the freak nature of this accident, the vast majority of injuries sustained by passengers and crew members in turbulence events occur when someone isn’t buckled in.
On Sunday, 36 passengers were injured when a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu hit severe turbulence. 11 of those injuries were considered serious, and 20 passengers and crew had to be transported to the hospital for further treatment.
Most of those who were injured were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, despite the seatbelt sign being on at the time. Some of those who were injured were flung into the air, hitting the ceiling above them and sustaining serious head injuries.
In a separate incident on Monday, five passengers on a United Airlines flight from Rio de Janeiro to Houston were hospitalized after the aircraft dropped 500 feet in mere seconds after the aircraft hit unexpected turbulence.
In fact, the threat of unexpected turbulence is the reason why airlines and air safety professionals recommended that passengers keep themselves buckled in at all times, even when the ride is smooth.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.