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POTHOLES IN THE SKY

 

During public awareness campaign in schools, students always want clarification on the subject of "potholes in the sky".

Inside a thick cloud there is usually upward and downward movement of air. The hailstones that fall when a big storm passes actually grow in the upper part of these clouds where wind speeds can reach up to 50 metres per second. If an aircraft enters a long cloud band such as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which is associated with the rainy season, it will experience turbulence and will move up and down in response to the upward and downward forces inside the cloud. As a safety measure, the Captain of the aircraft will normally announce in person or through cabin crew for passengers to fasten their seat belts. These are the conditions when passengers without fastening the seat belt have been reported to hit the ceiling of an aircraft.

The up and down movement of the aircraft creates an impression of "potholes in the sky". These conditions can also be encountered under clear skies if the wind direction suddenly changes or if wind speeds are too strong.  

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