Experiencing turbulence when flying in a plane is common for frequent travelers. However, for some people, it can be a scary time. Being in a frightened state of mind triggers the worst thought for such people. Some might even feel like the aircraft might break because of the turbulence. However, airplanes are designed with enough durability that prevents them from falling apart in all naturally occurring turbulence. The prime example of such a situation is the Durgapur SpiceJet turbulence incident. The plane was subjected to severe turbulence but was able to survive it.
Load Factor of an aircraft
Before we get into any explanation, it is important to understand the structural safety of an aircraft is highly dependent on the load factor. This unit to measure the aircraft’s structural integrity can be divided into Limit Load, Ultimate Load and Safety Factor. Here Limit load means the max load a plane can experience in its service, Ultimate load means the load that might cause the aircraft to collapse, and safety factor means the ratio of Ultimate load to limit load.
When an airplane is loaded to its maximum capacity, its structural integrity should remain unaffected. However, structural failure is possible when subjected to the maximum load. Between these two limitations is where the safety factor lies. It is extremely improbable that airplane structures will permanently distort while operating under the safety factor limit.
The safety factor for airplanes is 1.5 times the maximum load. This strikes a balance between the aircraft’s weight and safety. The strength of the airframe and other aircraft structures must increase as the safety factor does. The aircraft’s weight increases as a result. The safety factor cannot be infinitely high for this reason. Hence, to keep the structural integrity of an aircraft intact, pilots have to monitor multiple things like maximum maneuvering speed and maximum load.
Wing design of an aircraft
The wings of an aircraft have a major role in not only keeping the aircraft stable but also in keeping a plane safe during turbulence. The design of the wing determines how an aircraft will behave when a gust comes in contact with the plane.
An increase in load factor results from a shift in the angle of attack brought on by a vertical gust. When opposed to aircraft with straight wings, high-speed airliners’ swept wings are less vulnerable to vertical gusts. This is due to the fact that a sweeping wing produces less lift than a straight wing at a given angle of attack.