Severe turbulence diverts plane after injuries

Published: Dec. 17, 2014 at 1:44 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2015 at 1:48 AM MST
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A plane heading for U.S. soil was sent to Tokyo after it hit severe turbulence over Japan.

American Airlines flight 280 departed South Korea and started its long flight to Dallas-Fort Worth when it hit severe turbulence just north of Tokyo, Japan at 8 p.m. Tuesday (4 a.m. MST). As many as 14 people were injured and five were sent to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The plane originally continued its path after the turbulence but eventually was sent back to Japan to treat the injured. It landed at the Narita International Airport near Tokyo at 12:55 a.m. Wednesday (9 a.m. MST Tuesday).

One crew member had suspected bone fractures from the incident, but all other injuries were reported as minor.

At the time of the incident Japan had a very powerful storm over the country. The jet stream over Japan at the time was over 200 miles per hour. Blizzard warnings were issued in northern Japan and strong winds were found at the surface, up to 70 miles per hour.

Here is what most likely caused the severe turbulence: When you have a jet stream so strong over head you get a lot of rising and sinking air in a general area. The plane was flying very close to the jet stream, roughly 35,000 feet above the surface. Usually with such a strong jet you get air rising fast into it to make up a void in that spot in the sky. Think of the jet stream as a suction cup, the stronger the jet stream, the stronger the suction would be.

Meteorologists expected bad turbulence in that area but not that severe. Planes were made to handle these type of situations and the aircraft had no damage reported at the time.

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