An airplane flies in the air following a powerful winter storm on Feb. 26, 2023 in Burbank, California. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images
A passenger was killed after an airplane fought to withstand severe turbulence over New England on Friday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The big picture: The rare passenger death follows several other incidents in which turbulence caused injuries aboard flights in recent months.
Driving the news: Five people — three passengers and two crew — were aboard the Bombardier executive jet that was forced to divert to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut while en route to Leesburg, Virginia from Keene, New Hampshire.
- The turbulence resulted in fatal injuries to one of the passengers, the NTSB said Saturday.
- It's unclear what damage the plane sustained and whether the victim was following safety protocols like wearing a seatbelt.
What to watch: The NTSB has launched a probe into the incident and expects to release a preliminary report in two to three weeks, NTSB spokesperson Sarah Taylor Sulick said in a statement.
- Investigators have "removed the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder and are continuing to gather information from the flight crew, operator and passengers about the circumstances of the event," Sulick added.
Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The incident occurred as severe weather knocked out power to nearly one million people across several states on Friday.
- A powerful storm over the Midwest set all-time low-pressure records in some areas, and a related winter storm moved into New England with snow, ice, rain and strong winds.
Worth noting: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) describes turbulence as "air movement created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms."
- A 2021 NTSB report found that turbulence accounted for 37% of all accidents on larger commercial airplanes between 2009 and 2018.
- Compared to crew members, passengers are typically less likely to suffer serious turbulence-related injuries, per data collected by the FAA.
- 2009 recorded serious injuries — including those that require hospitalization for more than 48 hours — among 10 passengers, but between 2010 and 2021, that number didn't exceed three.
Don't forget: Thirty-six people were injured in December after a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu encountered severe turbulence. Several unrestrained people and objects were sent careening around the cabin, Honolulu Emergency Services said at the time.
- Just earlier this week, a Lufthansa flight traveling from Texas to Germany experienced similar turbulence over Tennessee. Seven people were injured and taken to local hospitals.
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