- Flying is safer than driving a car, but that doesn’t mean it’s not scary sometimes.
- People have told stories of aeroplane turbulence on Reddit, and some of them are truly wild.
- One story involves the plane dropping hundreds of feet in midair.
- Another says the turbulence was so bad, oxygen masks dropped mid-flight.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
While flying is much safer than driving a car, there’s no shortage of scary scenarios while you’re flying the friendly skies.
People on Reddit shared their scariest stories of aeroplane turbulence. If you have anxiety about flying, you might want to click away – or bookmark this list for later to remember that people have survived these terrifying experiences. And though INSIDER can’t independently verify any of these tales, they do make for some wild reading.
Here are 18 stories of turbulence on aeroplanes that will make your jaw drop.
“It felt like we were on a roller coaster.”
“Story from a flight I was on, we were supposed to go from Chicago, Illinois, to Buffalo, New York, but there was an insane snow storm happening. We spent an hour on the Chicago tarmac getting de-icing fluid on the wings. Once we were in the air, there was insane turbulence. We approached Buffalo and it felt like we were on a roller coaster as the plane went up and down as we circled the runway.
“After about a half hour of this, the pilot said that we couldn’t land due to the snow and we only had about a half hour or so left of fuel so we were going to try and make it to Albany. Made it to Albany safely at 4 a.m.” – Redditor icantthinkofaname0
“We had been caught in the vortex of a much heavier aircraft.”
“When I was fairly new in the industry, I was the co-pilot on a DC-9 flying into LaGuardia. It was a beautiful day, and we were flying a visual arrival (the Expressway, for all you pilots). The captain was flying, and as we approached a point where a right turn was required the aircraft started to roll left instead. Puzzled, I looked over to see that he had the yoke all the way to the right, but we continued to roll left. We were passing about 60 degrees of bank, and the nose was starting to drop. Just at that moment, he said something I’ve never heard from another pilot, before or since: ‘Help me.’
“Since rudder is a fairly effective roll control on a swept wing aircraft, I applied right rudder, which stopped the roll. The aircraft just sort of hung there for a moment, then abruptly snapped back to the right. Everything returned to normal, and we resumed the arrival, each wondering what the hell had just happened.
“A minute later, the approach controller handed us off to tower, with the closing words, ‘Use caution for wake turbulence; previous three arrivals have been heavy L-1011’s.’ We had been caught in the wingtip vortex of a much heavier aircraft, which had attempted to roll us inverted. Would have been nice to know about ten minutes earlier.” – Redditor TGMcGonigle
“It felt like we were hit with the hand of God.”
“So I was on a flight from New York’s LaGuardia to Dallas, Texas. Not a huge aircraft but not small either, so getting thrown around is a rare occurrence.
“We were at [cruising] altitude and serving snacks and such when the captain turned on the seatbelt sign. I just thought to myself, ‘I have to push this thing back to the galley then out again.’ Well, I’m just wheeling away and the pilot comes over the intercom and asks if everyone can return to their seats. Weird, I know. Well about 30 seconds later, cart almost back, it felt like we were hit from the top of the fuselage with the hand of God. I’m talking about a 1,000 ft/sec drop kind of drop. All I can do is grip the cart and my legs go above my head and cart comes up a little with me. Overhead bins came open, s— went everywhere, everyone’s screaming. I have never actually thought to myself I might die on this flight. Turbulence went on for about another 6 seconds and then just quit. Smooth sailing again.
“After landing I found out what happened. Apparently, in the summer months in the south, you’ll have pop-up thunderstorms that are harder to predict. Well, the pilot and dispatcher didn’t predict how wide the thunderstorm was. Turns out we got hit with one of the downdrafts on the side of it and got way too close.” – Redditor Big_boobed_boy
“Pilot shook everyone’s hand after the flight.”
“[We were at the] edge of a hurricane across the Pacific. The plane dropped 100s of meters in the bumps and belts were the only thing keeping us in [our] seats.
“The pilot shook everyone’s hand after the flight and said he never wanted to do that again.” – Redditor LucSanchezMD
“I’ve had people holding onto my arms in a death grip crying.”
“I live in Alaska and we have the consistently worst turbulent landing I have ever been to, Ketchikan. The airport is in a channel, so the wind is constantly blowing. It is also surrounded by mountains and on the ocean. All of this adds up to make a really bad, turbulent area. I have had people holding onto my arms in a death grip crying before.” – Redditor BobRascle
“The plane was bouncing and swaying all over the place.”
“With as much flying as I do, I’ve been fairly lucky. The worst was landing in Perth, Australia, once. Weather and wind were super gnarly and the plane was bouncing and swaying all over the place as well as some severe drops in altitude. One of my friends with me hates flying and he was pretty terrified at the situation, and at about that time the tension of the plane switched from ‘this is normal’ to a much more nervous sort of vibe. Could’ve been worse but when we finally touched down, it was a wave of relief.” – Redditor tementnoise
“Overhead luggage fell down, lights went out, a flight attendant got sick.”
“I flew a lot (once a week) a few years back. It was mid-summer, hot as hell for the last weeks and promptly when we boarded, a thunderstorm hit. Sadly it was pretty much the same on the way to our destination, so I was prepared for a non-smooth flight.
“Fast forward an hour into the flight, the captain announced to the cabin that we’re about to hit a severe turbulence zone and that the crew should go back to their place and stop serving. Nothing unusual.
“What followed was probably the most scared I’ve ever been. It was a rollercoaster ride. Overhead luggage fell down, lights went out, a flight attendant got sick and I heard people pray. I swore I’d take a train home.” – Redditor genuineparts
“The plane hit some very serious turbulence and dipped severely twice.”
“Yesterday the plane I was on hit some very serious turbulence and dipped severely twice. People yelled and I grabbed my seat.
“We were flying from Moscow, Russia, to New York City and it happened just minutes from John F. Kennedy Airport over land. After a 10 hour flight with little or no turbulence, this time it was extremely severe and the fact that we were visibly over land made it scarier.” – Redditor alxsamsonov
“It felt like we were falling out of the sky.”
“On a flight from Munich to Chicago, Illinois, when we … hit a patch of bad turbulence, and it felt like we were falling out of the sky for a bit. It probably wasn’t any longer than five or six seconds, but those were the longest five or six seconds ever. People were freaking out.” – Redditor everlong016
“The flight attendants got buggy-eyed.”
“One time I was flying from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Las Vegas, Nevada, and we hit some crazy turbulence while the flight attendants were coming around with the food cart.
“I normally look to the flight attendants for comfort, because when we hit something that freaks me out, I look over at them and they are usually calm. Well, we hit one bit of turbulence that caused the plane to simultaneously drop straight down 10 feet, tilt at an angle suddenly, and turn the entire front of the aircraft 45 degrees from where we initially facing. The flight attendants got buggy-eyed and put the food cart away because it had become uncontrollable.
“The pilot got on the horn and apologised for how rough the ride was. We were still like 45 min from our destination but he just gradually started descending right there and then in an effort to make the ride smoother. It didn’t really work though.” – Redditor InferiousX
“The plane took a massive, ear-popping, stomach-ruining drop.”
“Flying from London to Los Angeles, California, maybe seven years ago, I was listening to my iPod and dozing off when the mild turbulence we’d been experiencing for a while reached that point where everyone starts to feel a bit uncomfortable.
“I opened my eyes and the plane took a massive, ear-popping, stomach-ruining drop. People screamed. I looked up and saw a flight attendant standing in the aisle gripping the seat backs to each side of her. The look on her face scared me more than the turbulence, which was getting worse. I turned to the guy beside me (I remember we were in a row of three and the middle one was empty. I also remember he was wearing a Raiders cap) and he slowly raised his hand and pointed out of the window, where you could see the clouds below us flickering and flashing with reflected lightning. It was actually awesome as well as terrifying.
“The worst of it went on for about half an hour. There was one more big dip and plenty of turbulence, but the captain spoke to us several times, and he was clearly super calm and even amused by the whole thing. Nevertheless, it took me maybe five years to get comfortable flying again.” – Redditor BoredZilla
“BANG — the plane felt like it had been hit by something.”
“Flying from Liverpool to Amsterdam. It was a really smooth flight, in fact, the smoothest and least turbulent I’d ever been on.
“About halfway through this super smooth flight I was sat reading a magazine and then BANG – the plane felt like it had been hit by something and started violently shaking with the background track of a few scared screams. Turns out it was just turbulence, and whilst I’d encountered worse turbulence before on a flight to Hong Kong, it was the suddenness at which we hit it that loosened everyone’s bowels. One woman wouldn’t stop crying for the rest of the flight.” – Redditor DubiumGuy
“She barfed and I had to use my hands to funnel the vomit into the pouch.”
“My pregnant wife and I were in Washington, DC, for a business trip and about to fly back to St. Louis. We had lunch; I had a sandwich she had some nice spinach cheese soup. We get to the gate and they are boarding the flight and take off. Mid-way through the flight, the captain comes on and says to expect some turbulence due to thunderstorms rolling in the area and we might be a little late landing.
“We get to within 15 minutes of landing (having started to make a descent) and we start a roller coaster of a ride, up and down, up and down trying to land but the winds and the rain are just too much. The pilot says screw it and gets high again and starts to circle waiting out the storm. An hour later pilot comes on saying we can’t wait any longer due to fuel getting low so we try again and again to no avail and start the up and down and banking and turning all over again.
“Oh, and did you catch that my wife is pregnant? Yeah, she is in her first trimester. And she gets motion sick already. We are not only going up and down but turbulence is bouncing us all around. She tells me she is going to be sick and needs to get to the bathroom. As she stands up a flight attendant rushes over to us and tells her to sit down. She protests saying she is pregnant and going to throw up and needs to get to the bathroom. The FA blocks her way and she is forced to sit down. Meanwhile, I am frantically looking for a barf bag. Cannot find one in my seat or hers due to a fresh restock of Sky Mall. She is getting worse saying she can’t hold it in.
“That is the scariest moment of my flying career, knowing my wife is seconds away from blowing yellow-green liquid all over the place.
“She did end up barfing and I had to use my hands to funnel the vomit into the magazine pouch. We didn’t land for another 30 minutes after that. It was all over me and her and the seats. I am so glad it didn’t trigger a barf fest on this plane. It smelled awful.” – Redditor Waldamos
“It felt like I was in a snow globe.”
“I had a 9 p.m. flight out of Charlotte, North Carolina, a few years ago during a really bad summer storm.
“We sat on the tarmac for nearly two hours (the legal limit) waiting to get the go-ahead to take off. With about 10 minutes left the pilot comes on and says: ‘Sorry folks but it’s not gonna happen tonight.’
“I felt kind of relieved since we had been staring at an ominous looking thunderhead for the last 2 hours, which capped by my guess at around 30,000 feet…
“Much to my horror, about 2 minutes later, the captain came on again: ‘You know what, we’re gonna go for it.’
“In my head, I was thinking, ‘Go for it? What the f— do you mean, go for it?’ … Either it’s safe to take off, or it’s not.
“So we took off finally around 11 p.m. into this dark [storm] spewing lightning; it was the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life. Keep in mind I fly a lot for my work; I’m used to turbulence and it doesn’t generally bother me. But no, this flight was an entirely different beast.
“For the next 10 minutes, it felt like I was in a snow globe – the shaking was the most violent I’ve ever encountered. The nose of the plane was pitching up and down while we were bounced around. The pilots were varying the engine thrust to try and stabilise the plane through all this, and with it being as cloudy as it was (aside from the lightning flashes), it was almost impossible to tell if we were even gaining altitude.
“The cabin was the eeriest though; it was completely silent.
“Finally, we made it through and the rest of the flight was uneventful; when we landed, I don’t think I have ever been so happy to be back on the ground.” – Redditor Veik
“The attendant hit the ceiling and the cart was in the air.”
“I was on a flight from Seattle to Atlanta and the plane hit some unexpected turbulence while the flight attendants were serving meals (yes, this was when they still served real meals, about 10 years ago); the attendant and cart were not far from my row. The attendant hit the ceiling of the plane and the cart was in the air. Luckily the cart didn’t hit anyone when it caught up with the plane.” – Redditor esrevinu
“One attendant got a concussion.”
“Going home from Thailand when I was 15 years old. Pilot over the intercom: ‘Please return to your seats and fasten seatbelts. We’re about to hit some heavy turbulence.’
“Not even 10 seconds after that, the plane fell down. I had no time to fasten my seatbelt and I banged my head to the roof and came down upon the seat rest. One attendant got a light concussion.
“I was scared s—less and my parents told me my face was nearly white.
“I’m not scared of flying or anything, but that was truly a freaky experience.” – Redditor theJaylee
“The plane dipped rapidly and all the oxygen masks were released.”
“I was travelling Edinburgh to London last year and we hit some bad turbulence; the plane dipped rapidly a few times and all the oxygen masks were released. We had to put the masks on for like ten minutes while they made the emergency descent before they told us that it was safe to take them off. It was quite bizarre actually; nobody seemed bothered or at all concerned, they just put on their masks and continued whatever they were doing.” – Redditor Eroneous_Rex
“We hit some turbulence with some pretty wicked drops.”
“On the plane from Houston to Orlando, we hit some turbulence with some pretty wicked drops; all the people on the plane were freaked out and scared, just as I was. Then, some kids on their way to Disney World start laughing and cheering; after we were out of the turbulence, one asked their parent, ‘Can we go again?'” – Redditor gsn42
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