AUSTIN, Texas — A Lufthansa flight from Austin, Texas, that headed to Germany was diverted to Virginia’s Washington Dulles International Airport Wednesday night due to “significant turbulence,” according to CNN.
Several passengers on board suffered minor injuries and seven were transported to the hospital.
Lufthansa Flight 469 experienced brief but severe turbulence about 90 minutes into the flight. According to a statement given to CNN by a Lufthansa spokesperson, this “so-called clear air turbulence” can occur without warning or “visible weather phenomena.”
“The affected passengers were given initial care on board by the flight attendants trained for such cases. As the safety and well-being of passengers and crew members is the top priority at all times, the cockpit crew decided to make an alternate landing to (Dulles airport) after flying through the turbulence,” the statement further read.
FAA told CNN the crew of Airbus A330 reported experiencing the turbulence at nearly 37,000 feet in the air over Tennessee. The flight landed at Dulles around 9:10 p.m.
An investigation regarding the flight remains ongoing.
Passenger Susan Zimmerman, 34, of Austin, Texas, said one of the pilots told the cabin that the plane had fallen about 1,000 feet (about 305 meters) during the episode, which came on suddenly.
“It felt like the bottom just dropped out from underneath,” she said in a phone interview. “Everything was floating up. For a moment, you are weightless.”
The German-based airline returned to its nonstop service from Austin to Frankfurt, Germany, last April after a two-year hiatus. Flights occur three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
This is just the latest incident of severe turbulence. In December 2022, a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix, Aziz., to Honolulu, Hawaii, experienced severe turbulence. A total 25 people were injured, six of them seriously.
Turbulence continues to be a major cause of accidents and injuries during flight, according to a 2021 NTSB report. Turbulence accounted for 37.6% of all accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018.
Turbulence is essentially unstable air that moves in an unpredictable fashion. Most people associate it with heavy storms. But the most dangerous type is clear-air turbulence, which can be hard to predict and often with no visible warning in the sky ahead.
Storms moved across areas of Tennessee on Wednesday night, creating strong winds in the upper atmosphere, said Scott Unger, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Nashville.
“It was very windy aloft, which could lead easily lead to the possibility of turbulence with any flight,” he said.
The turbulence occurred during the middle of meal service and passengers and crew were moving throughout the cabin, said Zimmerman, who is five months pregnant. She said she still had her seatbelt on and that neither she nor her baby were injured.
“I’m pretty sure she slept through it,” she said. “She’s surrounded in amniotic fluid.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.