What happens to airplanes during earthquakes?

The most powerful earthquake in the world occurred in May 1960 in Chile. At first, local residents felt relatively weak tremors, which did not lead to serious destruction. But then, at 15:11 local time, scientists recorded an earthquake with a power of 9.5 on the Richter scale. Not only did it destroy many buildings and cause death, but it also caused a tsunami that covered many lands as far as southeastern Australia. The Great Chilean Earthquake had great consequences, the worst of which was the death of up to six thousand people. During earthquakes, the most dangerous place is the surface of the earth, and this is logical. Is there any danger to those flying on the plane?

What happens to airplanes during earthquakes. Can an earthquake cause a plane to crash? Pilots know exactly the answer to this question. Photo.

Can an earthquake cause a plane to crash? Pilots know exactly the answer to this question

The influence of earthquakes on airplanes

The authors of the scientific publication IFL Science recently spoke about whether airplane passengers could be in any danger during an earthquake on earth. Before answering this question, they proposed to understand how the atmosphere and the surface of the earth interact with each other.

According to them, when the earth begins to tremble, waves invisible to human eyes rush into the sky. They can rise to the height of the ionosphere – part of the earth's atmosphere that extends up to 1000 kilometers above the surface of our planet.

Based on this, it follows that during earthquakes, some disturbances do occur in the sky. The waves traveling upward are sound waves, and their frequency is always below 20 Hertz. Vibrations at this frequency are called infrasound, and human ears are not able to detect them.

The effect of earthquakes on aircraft. Infrasounds cannot harm aircraft in any way. Photo.

Infrasounds cannot harm airplanes in any way

The longer these waves travel up the earth's atmosphere, the weaker they become. This is similar to how sound waves are transmitted during communication – if the interlocutor is far away, the air vibrations created by his voice cannot reach us and we do not hear anything.

Just as we do not hear the sounds of a person who is far away, Likewise, airplanes do not feel the effects of earthquakes at a distance of 10 thousand meters. Therefore, when the earth's surface shakes, nothing threatens aircraft.

Article on the topic:What is airplane turbulence and why does it occur?

Loss of communication between the airplane and the controller

However, during earthquakes, airplanes can get into trouble for another reason. Many people don’t even realize this, although it is quite logical and expected.

In 2018, one of the pilots said that he once had the opportunity to fly a plane when an earthquake began underneath him. Neither he nor the passengers felt any shaking – as was said, the aircraft are too high for atmospheric waves to have any effect on them.

During the flight, the plane had problems with navigation, and the pilots could not understand which way they could fly. The fact is that during the earthquake there was a power outage on the ground, and air traffic controllers could not control the flights. Due to the lack of communication with the ground, the plane could have collided with another aircraft, which would have caused a terrible disaster. Fortunately, the pilots did not have to fly blind for long, because the air traffic control turned on emergency power and communication was established.

Loss of communication between the aircraft and the dispatcher. Due to problems on the ground, aircraft may lose navigation. Photo.

Due to problems on the ground, airplanes may lose navigation

The idea that a plane might lose contact during earthquakes sounds scary. This is especially frightening because this has already happened. Fortunately, air traffic control stations have long had emergency generators to generate electricity. In addition, pilots and air traffic controllers have prepared plans for dealing with earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters.

The bottom line is that if an earthquake occurs under the plane during air travel, passengers will be aware of it They won't even know. The news will reach them only after landing, and no danger will threaten them. In general, the sky is a safer place than the surface of the Earth – do not forget that more people die in accidents than in airplane crashes.

Want to discuss airplane safety? Then take a look at our Telegram chat, where there are many interesting interlocutors!

Every day, planes make 120 thousand flights around the world. This is a real miracle of technology, and this topic is very interesting to understand. Surprisingly, a lot of interesting things can be said even about an ordinary airplane propeller – here is a selection of facts that you are unlikely to know. Happy reading!