… however, for your own safety, we ask that you keep your seatbelt fastened while seated,” the flight attendant announces after the ascent on every single one of our flights. Why is this so?
An airplane flies through the air a little like a ship sailing on the water – neither water nor air is a solid or even element. The way people see it, the difference is that you can see the movement of water with your eyes, but this is no true of the movement of air masses. Additionally, you can usually predict the rocking of a ship – if you now rock to the left, say, you will soon rock with the waves back to the right and then back again to the left. Anyone who has ever experienced turbulence knows that this is not the case with airplanes. Indeed, an airplane may jerk up, down and to the sides quite quickly – and because the movement of air is not visible, turbulence sometimes feels unpleasant as the body is startled by the direction of the movement.
Turbulence is not dangerous for the airplane or for people, if they have their seatbelts fastened. What makes turbulence dangerous for us who are on board during the flight is the above-mentioned fact that the direction and strength of the movement cannot be predicted – it means that someone standing in the aisle may be injured if he or she falls down from the movement. For the same reason, meal and refreshment service on our flights is stopped for the duration of the turbulence – hot coffee doesn’t stay too well in a cup if the plane is rocking around, and a hot drink that lands on the skin can leave a nasty mark.
Flight safety is the sum of many small, sometimes seemingly obvious parts. The seatbelt and armrests, those simple devices, have been designed and tested to help people stay safely in their seats during the different stages of a flight. During the ascent and descent, the use of a seatbelt rarely requires justification – the heavy plane moves on the runway at a speed of up to 200 km/h and it is easy to understand what kind of force would be involved if the plane were to make a sudden stop.
The main rule when it comes to turning on the seatbelt sign is that the sign is always turned on when the captain feels it is not safe to move within the aircraft. For this reason, the cabin crew also take their seats as soon as possible after the light is switched on.
My response to the discussion that has been going on lately about whether to do away with seatbelts and sell standing spots on flights is a decided “no”. I cannot think of a single reason why this would be a good idea.
P.S. By the way, pilots keep their seatbelts fastened throughout the entire flight. Read more about turbulence in Jussi’s blog post.