HOUSTON — Several people were injured Monday morning when a United Airlines flight flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airport experienced unexpected turbulence.
Airport officials said United Flight 128 was coming from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil when it experienced unexpected turbulence. The plane landed safely and ambulances were waiting to treat the injured.
United Airlines said two passengers and three crew members were taken to a hospital and they are expected to be OK. According to United Airlines, 193 passengers and 10 crew members were on the plane.
The airline released the following statement on the incident:
"United flight 128 encountered unexpected turbulence while en route to Houston. Upon arrival, two passengers and three crewmembers were met by medical personnel and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.
We’re grateful to our crew for their efforts to ensure the safety of our employees and customers."
According to the FAA, the Boeing 767 reported turbulence as it flew directly over Cancun. The FAA is now investigating and expected to post a preliminary accident report later this week.
What is clear turbulence
Aviation experts said situations like this usually happen when the seasons change and they fly into what's called clear turbulence.
Unfortunately, sometimes pilots can't avoid it because they can't see it. That's why they say it's important to always wear a seatbelt when you're sitting down during a flight.
"Hot air rises, cold air sinks. With these differences, an airplane cutting through air, you will feel the actual bumps cutting through air and that is what causes turbulence," aviation expert Oliver Brown said.
When pilots encounter clear turbulence, they'll normally notify the flight behind them to prevent other flights from going through the same turbulence.
On Sunday, a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu left 11 people seriously injured after it experienced severe turbulence.
Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said 36 people received treatment, including those with nausea or minor injuries. He said 20 people were taken to hospitals, including 11 people deemed to be in serious condition.
The injured included three flight attendants, Snook said.
“We are also very happy and we feel fortunate that there were not any deaths or other critical injuries," Ireland said. "And we’re also very hopeful that all will recover and make a full recovery,”
Passenger Kaylee Reyes told Hawaii News Now that her mother had just sat down when the turbulence hit and did not have a chance to buckle her safety belt.
“She flew up and hit the ceiling,” Reyes said.
Snook said there was some internal damage to the aircraft during the turbulence. The seatbelt sign was on at the time, though some of those injured weren't wearing their seatbelts, he said.
Thomas Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said there had been a weather advisory for thunderstorms that included Oahu and areas that would have included the flight path at the time of the incident.
The airline was aware of the weather forecast and the unstable air and weather conditions, but had no warning the particular patch of air where the turbulence occurred "was in any way dangerous,” Snook said.