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I am a screenwriter whose script takes place aboard a plane. There is extreme turbulence during the flight. And at one point the plane nosedives and almost crashes. I want the instructions that the pilot gives to be as accurate as possible. I am including some excerpts from the script below. Can the pilots and flight crew among you provide some critiques of the script?

Also, I am looking for an aviation expert to provide some consulting on this low-budget film. It would probably be a few hours worth of conversation about the ins and outs of turbulence and plane crashes. Please let me know if you would be interested in being an expert for the film and getting screen credit.

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There are a few types of turbulence that can cause such a major reaction from an airplane the most likely being clear air turbulence (CAT) of which there are a few types.


Wake Turbulence:

This is the wingtip vortices caused by the pressure differential around the wing that come off an airplane and spiral down and away from an airplane. Generally, the larger an airplane gets, the more wake turbulence it generates because of the increased lift needed for the plane to fly. These vortices extend down and behind the airplane for a significant distance and can cause another airplane to lose control. There was an incident a few years ago between an A380 and a Challenger 604 where the Challenger crossed below the Airbus that resulted in such a situation. This one is probably the easiest explanation for your script as it can be very severe and the mechanism for generating it is a bit more simple than the weather-based turbulence types.

Jet Stream Turbulence

A lot of airplanes use the jet stream to get favourable tailwinds in order to get to their destination faster. However, there is a good risk of turbulence occurring due to the large wind differentials between different sections of the jet stream. The area of most turbulence when flying in the jet stream is just under and on the polar side of the jet stream core. Typically, the turbulence isn't as severe as what is described in your script, but it can occur (example).

Mountain Wave Turbulence

When wind passes over a mountain range perpendicularly and with a few other weather conditions, it can generate mountain wave turbulence which is a large oscillation in wind patterns that can extend for very long distances under the right conditions. This type of turbulence will have areas of major upflow and downflow which can change an airplanes altitude significantly. This type of turbulence can combine with jet stream turbulence to create even worse turbulence.


There are other types of turbulence that can cause severe turbulence like thunderstorms, but those are much easier to avoid as they are visible (not the turbulence, but the clouds associated with it).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your detailed response. In my script, I don't really describe why the turbulence is occurring. It's a short film so I don't have a lot of time to get into specifics. Am I right in assuming that wake turbulence is caused by the presence of another aircraft? Also, would a plane nosediving be a possible consequence of this kind of turbulence? $\endgroup$
    – Hillary
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Hillary Yes, another aircraft would need to be present to generate that type of turbulence. And also yes, if wake turbulence is severe enough it can cause an airplane encountering it to nosedive. $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2023 at 20:24

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