Increase in Severe Turbulence Impacting Air Freight

Dramatic increase in severe turbulence incidence is impacting air freight as well as passengers, says Parcelhero This week's fatality and injuries on board Singapore Airlines' flight SQ321 highlights the dangers of turbulence. A 55% increase in severe turbulence since 1979 is also having a dramatic impact on air cargo, warns the leading international delivery expert Parcelhero.

The sudden turbulence suffered by Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which caused one fatality and many injuries, highlights the increasing incidence of severe air turbulence. The impact on air freight as well as on passengers is set to escalate, warns the global delivery expert Parcelhero. Singapore Airlines' aircraft hit severe turbulence and dropped more than 6,000ft (1800m) in three minutes.

While this was particularly dramatic, the number of events has been growing in recent years. Parcelhero's Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: 'The plane involved in the incident was a Boeing 777-300ER. In addition to carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, it would also have been carrying approximately 21,000kgs (around 21 imperial tons) of cargo in its holds, depending on specification.

'International goods and packages are not only transported in specially designed cargo planes. Many passenger aircraft, including the 777-300ER, are equipped with dedicated cargo holds to safely transport freight and small parcels. 'For example, Emirates says its 300ER aircraft are capable of carrying approximately 21,000kgs of cargo, in addition to a full passenger load.

'While the incidence of turbulence strong enough to cause fatalities is fortunately rare (Singapore Airlines operates many flights between London and Singapore a week and has not had a fatality from any cause since 2000), the prevalence of turbulence has increased in recent years. 'Meteorologists from the University of Reading released a report last year revealing that at a typical point over the North Atlantic (one of the world's busiest flight routes) the total annual duration of severe turbulence increased by 55% from 1979 to 2020. 'Airlines must now consider how to manage the increased damage caused by turbulence to cargo, as well as plane wear and tear.

The report notes turbulence already costs the industry £100m-£150m annually in the US alone. 'This is also the reason why anyone sending an item overseas must carefully follow all packaging recommendations. Not only are packages repeatedly taken on and off conveyors at airports and subject to physical Customs checks, but the increasing likelihood of turbulence means they must be packaged as carefully and securely as possible.

Cargo is securely stowed in the bellyholds of aircraft but the growing likelihood of turbulence means every precaution must be taken.

'The US is now Parcelhero's biggest individual overseas market.

For expert advice on UK-US shipping, including useful frequently asked questions (FAQs), help for exporters and secure packaging instructions, see:

Transport & Logistics - Driving The Industry Forward