Turbulence, Funny Noises and Panic Attacks

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Flying | 2 comments

Turbulence, Funny Noises and Panic Attacks

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Flying | 2 comments

Getting on a plane may be nerve wrecking. It’s quite common to meet people who face their fear of flying for the sake of travel. If you are one of those people, you are not alone. Know that you have nothing to worry about when stepping into that magical flying metal tube.

Turbulence is the event that most passengers experience on their flying journeys. It may be quite scary, especially if you encounter a strong one. But, don’t worry the plane is not going to crash and it’s not a sign that something is wrong.


Turbulence may be caused by various reasons, the plane might be going through a cloud or be behind another plane. The aircraft may be going through a zone where the wind was stronger or it had changed direction. How bad the turbulence is, depends on a lot of factors as well.

What exactly causes turbulence? The answer is simple, it’s air.

Air travels in waves, like the water in the sea. The direction of the air can change as you move from one point to another. When the wind meets the metal of a plane it causes to shake – as if a boat going through a wavy sea. Planes are built to withstand insane amounts of pressure and they can even bend before breaking. So, turbulence is no real danger to the aircraft, no matter how bad it might feel.

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Air leaves the engines of an aircraft in swirls, so if there is a bigger aircraft in front of yours, you will feel some turbulence.

Before the pilots even step on a plane they get a detailed weather report, so they can see how bad the weather will be along their flight path, they will know if a part of the flight will be a bumpy one or not. Pilots are in constant contact with the ground(the tower) and with other aircraft, so if one aircraft experiences any unexpected turbulence, others will be informed so they can avoid it.
Unexpected turbulence may occur and usually, it’s followed by an ascent or descent in attempts to avoid it. The pilots do it not because of safety, issues but more for the comfort of the passengers and crew.

Pilots are imposed different restrictions depending on their experience. If the day is particular windy, only the captain will be able to land the aircraft. This is because captains have more fly and simulator hours under their belts. Some captains even have a special licence to land on tricky airports like Funchal or Gibraltar.

Go Around

A go around can be experienced at the last stages of the flight, when the aircraft comes to land and then quickly climbs back up – sometimes you might even feel the wheels touching the Tarmac before the aircraft starts climbing. This can be quite scary for someone who’s nervous already, but know that this is a normal procedure and it happens for your safety.

A go around can happen for different reasons. Maybe the tower told the pilots to abort the landing because there was something on the runway, or the wind suddenly became too strong, or even if the aircraft was coming down with more speed than it should for landing.

If the captain is not happy with any of the values – wind or speed – he can make the decision to abort the landing and try to land the plane again in better conditions.

Funny Noises

Planes make all sort of funny noises when they are on the ground. Some of them are very loud others are not. If you are nervous about flying you might pay more attention to these noises than other passengers. Here are the most common noises that you might hear on an airbus type aircraft and what they mean.


The public announcement being cut off, the lights going down for a second followed by a low PAK

This happens when the pilots switch an engine off/on in efforts to save fuel on the ground


A barking noise under your feet

This is a funny one, don’t worry, there isn’t a dog woofing in despair because he’s stuck in the hold. The aircraft has a system called Power Transfer Unit (PTU) that maintains hydraulic pressure. You hear that woofing noise when the pilots start the second engine and the PTU runs a self-check test to see if the systems are pressurised equally and on the right levels.


A whirring noise followed by a THUD

Usually, you may hear it when the aircraft comes to a stop to its parking space, this happens when the ground staff open the hold doors. That whirring noise is the door opening and when it locks in place you will hear that other sound.


Emergency exits lights turning off followed by a ding and a THUD

This is a great sound because it means that the landing gear retracted properly. Now you can sit back, relax and enjoy your trip!

Panic Attacks

Flight Attendants can spot passengers who are scared or nervous from a mile away. They will try to reassure a nervous flyer. If you are scared or just nervous let the flight attendants know when you are boarding the plane, so they can keep an eye on you.

A good strategy, if you are a nervous flyer, is watching the flight attendants, they experience all sort situations and turbulence. If they are calm and smiling, all is good. Try to enjoy a glass of wine and think about your trip, or read a book and distract yourself from the fact that you are a few feet up high from the floor.


One thing that can help nervous flyers is asking the flight attendants to see the flight deck while on the ground. Most of the times they allow you to take a peek and have a brief chat with the pilots.

Hopefully by knowing a little bit more about the most common things that happen inside of an aircraft helps calming some of your anxiety or fear of flying.

How About You?

Are you a nervous flyer? What is the most stressful part of your journey?

If you are still afraid that something else might happen or if you are unsure about something check out the post: All Your Questions About Flying Answered

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