Turbulence on Northwest Airlines flight injures 47

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-400, similar to the one involved in the incident

47 people were injured on Friday after a Boeing 747-400, operated by Northwest Airlines, encountered severe turbulence on the Manila-Tokyo leg of a flight bound for Los Angeles. The aircraft was carrying 408 passengers and 14 crew members.

The aeroplane was circling off the coast of Chiba, east of Japan's capital of Tokyo, waiting to land, when turbulence forced it to make a rapid descent.

Many of the passengers who were not wearing their seat belts were thrown out of their seats. Most sustained injuries to their heads and necks by colliding with overhead lockers. None of the injuries were life-threatening, although six of the injured are expected to be hospitalised for up to three weeks.

The aircraft landed safely at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, whereupon ambulances took the injured to nearby hospitals.

"I was so scared, I thought I would die," said an unnamed passenger, describing the incident. "My whole body was lifted into the air."

"The person in front of me flew up to the ceiling. The person behind me collapsed and looked unconscious," another said.

"Air turbulence is believed to be the cause. The turbulence occurred 25 to 30 minutes before landing, when the seat belt light was on," said a spokesman for Northwest Airlines, Masashi Takahashi. "During the flight, we received a message from the pilot saying two or three people were injured. But [the pilot] probably assessed that an emergency landing was not necessary," he said to Agence France-Presse.

Northwest Airlines has stated that the seat belt sign was turned on during the incident.