Four passengers and a crew member were injured during an incident which occurred on an Austrian aircraft in Bulgarian airspace on Tuesday. The information became available today.
An Airbus A320 owned by Austrian Airlines was on its way from Vienna to Tel Aviv, when it encountered clear air turbulence, according to the Aviation Herald. This means the turbulence was not foreseeable. Therefore the pilots could not warn the passengers and make them fasten their seat belts.
At the time of the incident, flight number OS-861 was located to the south of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, at its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Due to the turbulence, the aircraft’s altitude changed suddenly. Within seconds, it varied between 100 feet above the plane’s cleared flight level and 900 feet below.
A nurse was on board, who treated the passengers immediately after the incident. Approximately an hour later, the Austrian Airlines flight landed in Tel Aviv safely, where medical staff was already waiting for the injured.
After the incident, the pilots decided not to divert to near-by Sofia. They may have known that medical treatment in Israel has a far better reputation than treatment available in Bulgaria. Also, the destination was not far, and the injuries were at least relatively light.
The Aviation Herald writes, the return flight to Vienna was cancelled and the aircraft checked, before it was returned to service a day later.
Modern passenger jets are built to withstand even very severe turbulence. Passengers and crew who are not strapped to their seats are in danger during strong to severe turbulence incidents, as they can crash against the ceiling of the plane, and fall back on the floor afterwards.
In the past several weeks, regular thunderstorms have messed up the summer in Bulgaria, which usually is a lot hotter and drier. It was unknown whether the turbulence incident was connected to the weather.