Dozens Injured In Severe Turbulence Near Hawaii


Hawaiian officials say as many as 36 people were treated and 11 are in serious condition in hospitals in Honolulu after a Hawaiian Airlines A330 hit severe turbulence on Sunday. The flight was carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew and was 30 minutes out from Honolulu when it flew through the rough air. The aircraft landed safely but a total of 20 people went to the hospital and the other 16 were treated by first responders at the airport.

A cold front was forecast to spawn thunderstorms, damaging winds and flooding in Oahu. Among those hospitalized were three crew members. Head injuries, including loss of consciousness, cuts and bruises, were reported after unbuckled occupants flew about the cabin.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. With being 30 minutes from destination I’ll bet the seatbelt light was on. Even if it wasn’t except for flight attendants doing their job there is no reason for passengers at their seats not to have their seat belts on. Hopefully any flight attendants who may have been injured along with any belted pax who may have been struck by unbelted persons will recover quickly. As far as any injuries to any unbelted passengers, you got what you deserved. I know some may feel my last sentence may be cruel, but I get tired of seeing so many ignoring the seatbelt on light during times the pilots think it is needed when I am airlining, knowing it is for everyone’s safety.

  2. Seat belt sign was reported on, yet a bunch of passengers were not belted in. However I am sure that there will be a bunch of lawsuits against Hawaiian, Taking responsibility for your deliberate actions is so yesterday 🙄

    • Aside from blaming everyone but yourself for your own actions, it’s a money grubbing opportunity plain and simple.

  3. Keep your seatbelts fastened while seated is mentioned in all airlines that I am aware of.
    Lawsuits? When can that nonsense be stopped – people assume no responsibilities for their own (lack of) actions these days. Unfortunately a lot of cabin crew members are injured every year doing their duty of moving through the cabin to ensure passenger safety.
    The culture of lawsuits is more damaging than almost any natural occuring phenomenon…

  4. Remember the good old days when Lawyers could NOT Advertise. We sure had way less lawsuits. Still had plenty of attorneys to go around for when you really needed one.

  5. I was on that JetBlue flight where 7 were injured, a few had broken bones. Multiple seatbelt announcements were ignored. It was truly a wild ride, with bodies bent around the overhead compartments and back down on top of others. I had no luck taking video, but did get a few pics. We started out at FL410 and ended up at FL280, it was that crazy. To add to the insanity, I had to wait for hours in the back, as the injured were stabilized and and removed from the plane. I blame JetBlue for flying through the top of a thunderstorm, when they could have flown 300 miles to the East and avoided the issue entirely.

  6. It is reassuring to know that the aircraft is able to survive that amount of turbulence. It validates the design criteria.

  7. Thirty years ago I was on a flight that encountered strong but brief turbulence. The seatbelt light had just gone out and I was about to unbuckle when Pow! My arms were flung upward, completely extended over my head, and unbuckled passengers bounced around with everything loose in the mix – “Chicken flyin’ everywhere around the plane…” as the song goes. That was all I needed for me to keep my seatbelt on whenever seated ever since. I suppose it was a learning experience not everybody has been privileged to learn, and it’s not like passengers have not been warned.

  8. Flying commercial sucks for a small plane pilot! Except for being able to get up and walk into a bathroom, that’s pretty cool.

  9. Yes! My first thought J.H. I wonder just how much stress they are built for. I’m sure someone who reads these threads will know.

    • Most transport category planes are certified for 2G’s. During a check ride steep turns are at 45 degrees of bank. Then I believe the FAA standard for ultimate failure is at 1.5 times the 2G limit.

      My wife gets mad at me when she notices wing flex in turbulence and I tell her there is nothing to worry about when the wing is flexing, it’s when the wing stops flexing then you have something to worry about.

  10. Unbuckled passengers injuring other passengers or flight crew during incidents like these is my second greatest concern (after airborne infectious disease) when flying commercial. I cannot imagine what it is like to have a 220 lb seatmate land on you during turbulence.

    Not sure what can be done other than the preflight announcement to keep belt on when seated. The belt does not have to be tight just on enough to keep you in your seat. Perhaps that could be encouraged by flight attendants walking around the cabin since their primary duty is passenger safety.

    Is seatbelt on when seated an FAA requirement? If not maybe it should be sort of like not blocking the aisles.

  11. We have mandated company scripts for Pre-flight, inflight FA briefings, and PAX briefings. Personally, I have heart felt personal briefings to friends and colleagues.

    I’m a Buss driver based in South Florida. Any student pilot over 14 years old can forecast building cumulus (very bumpy and physically dangerous to anyone not strapped in tight) from 2,000-16,000 at least every single afternoon from March until October.

    Our outfit mandates an “Initial Descent” PA before, well, initial decent” which is basically a polite heads up on touchdown eta, Wx they ignore and final credit card sales ptches, and a “Final” PA at 10,000 AGL mandated where the FA’s go running up and down the aisle cleaning garbage and verifying seats belts et al, are correct.

    Then we have “Approach Briefs”. Many seem to think those should be given when instructed to descend and the radio is getting busy, rather than during the previous 2 1/2 hours of discussion on Religion, Politics, abortion and mandated covid anything.

    Then I subtlety inform our FO qualified Chuck Hoovers, and generally younger Alan Armstrong’s planned Mach.80/340 kt planned descent to 10,000 to something survivable like .78/285 kts, with wiggle room for through, and around the build ups and shortcuts.

    I find sometimes the most effective CRM starts with “Alan (attention getter), I’m not comfortable being violated, and killing half our people back there, are you F-ing nuts?, Now pull your head out of your MCDU and look out the window to see what we’re descending into . Please”. Because , you know, CRM/ADM/and Error something or other, that’s a brand new way of speaking to people, mandated by people that sit in Universities and not airplanes.

    One word on the Initial and Final FA Briefs, While preparing to descend from 36K, If I suspect it may be mildly turbulent, I don’t want them running up and down my airplane at 10,000′ doing anything. I brief the Lead FA, “when you hear Initial, please complete your Final duties and strap in for the rest of the flight”.

    For friends (or anybody lucky enough to be sitting next to me at The Dew Drop Inn, I generally loop “The Ballad of the Uneasy Rider” on the juke box) and tell them my real brief.

    Stay with me for my rant.

    While participating in MP Officer Basic car chase day, a collective sigh was heard when we were told we can’t pull our (weakling) 9mm, and fire out of the window (Bad guys always turn left), It seems LE tends to crash as well, so unfortunately F=MA says the pistol goes flying into the woods, then you become the un armend target.

    If an airplane comes to a sudden stop (happens, not infrequently) your less than 24 month old child will become a projectile, as well as your more important possession. Your phone. Because of this annoying F=MA problem.

    1) The safest place to sit is to be the first person out of the flaming conflagration. Sit in an exit row. I’m paid to be last out of the cabin. Be the first out.
    2) Phone off and in a secure pocket., someone else can get the YouTube vid for ABC. You’re are going to want a charged phone while standing and confused on the runway the tearp after leaving a smokey hulk in a strange country. Call your family., then turn your phone off again. You’ll need a reservation and place to stay to get into a strange country.
    3) Two days of required meds in a pocket.
    4) Wallet and Passport on your person.
    5) Always where long pants, a shirt and some sort of appropriate jacket with pockets. Fires are hot snow is cold.
    5) Your keys, car and house on person.
    6)Once outside the airport doors stay away from large groups of very sad children. Sad, but they are good at converting your stuff to their stuff.

    Congress should pass a bill authorizing public, corporal punishment for anyone reaching into an overhead during our outdated emergency evacuation certification procedures.

    All this to say, be a pal, seat your FA’s early.

  12. People just never learn to stay belted in when seated. But then, many of them refuse to obey the directions of the FAs anyway. Yeah, I agree that if they are injured, it is their fault and responsibility.

  13. I recently flew on Lufthansa and they announced that seatbelts were mandatory while seated. I don’t know if this was their own requirement or the German version of the FAA. Good policy, though.

  14. It will be interesting to learn if this was clear air turbulence or convective. FL400? It’s never a good idea to try and top a thunderstorm, if that’s what they were trying to do.