Six passengers and two flight attendants were injured Wednesday after an American Airlines regional flight between Florida and Tennessee hit “unexpected turbulence,” the airline said.
On July 20 at 2:36 p.m. EDT, American Eagle Flight 3609 operated by Envoy Air departed Tampa with 52 passengers and four crew members on board, bound for Nashville. The flight was operated on an Embraer ERJ-175 aircraft with registration number N270NN.
About an hour into the flight, at FL370, the aircraft experienced severe turbulence lasting about thirty seconds, resulting in several passengers and crew being injured while unbuckling and walking around the cabin.
“Everything was smooth and I think that’s why it was such a surprise, because all of a sudden we just hit a bumpy spot and what started out as wobbly soon turned into something much more significant.” Passenger Brad Theis told local media.
Recounting his experience, Theis noted that one injured flight attendant in first class had blood on her face after she hit something during the incident.
At least seven passengers were taken to nearby hospitals with injuries ranging from general anxiety to minor head trauma. Photo: Getty Images
“Everyone who was not wearing a seat belt hit the ceiling. The guy behind me cracked the plastic in the ceiling vents because he hit it so hard.” he said.
After speaking with air traffic control, the flight deck crew decided to change course to Birmingham, Alabama, about 80 nautical miles south of their current course, citing a medical emergency.
The aircraft landed safely on runway 24 approximately 20 minutes after the incident, with at least seven injured being taken to hospital with neck and back injuries.
According to Fire Chief Sebastian Carrillo, the Birmingham Fire Department’s emergency responders confirmed there were no major injuries on board other than minor injuries, including anxiety, a nosebleed and some head injuries.
Theis praised the actions of the crew on board for their quick decision, adding: It won’t stop me from flying. In any case, this convinced me of the safety of flights and the reliability of aircraft.
In June 2021, another American Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence, causing it to be sent to New Orleans. After reporting one serious injury, the National Transportation Safety Board rated it as an accident. Photo: Lucas Souza | simple flight
A replacement ERJ-175, registration N203NN, ferried passengers to Nashville about six hours later, and the flight finally arrived at its destination at 9:07 pm CST.
N270NN remained at Birmingham Airport for 20 hours before returning to service the following morning for a flight to Dallas. The incident is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Despite the discomfort, turbulence is usually harmless. Incidents like Wednesday’s are exceptionally rare, although they highlight the importance of wearing your seatbelt while flying, even when you’re seated.
Last June, another American Airlines flight between Dallas and Tampa encountered severe turbulence, forcing a rerouting to New Orleans. Passengers aboard Airbus A321-200 Flight 2401 experienced a significant altitude deviation of more than 150 feet, resulting in ten passengers suffering minor injuries and a crew member reporting one serious injury. The National Transportation Safety Board rated the incident as an accident after an investigation.
Did the crew of American Eagle 3609 handle Wednesday’s incident well? Have you encountered severe turbulence while flying? Let us know about it in the comments.
Sources: The Aviation Herald, AIRLIVE, WBRC.
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