If you fly into busy airports you probably keep an eye out for large airplanes. Whether a large aircraft is taking off or landing, it creates a hazardous stream of air that we call “Wake turbulence.” But why do we call it “Wake turbulence”?
A wake is the result of any body or object passing through a fluid such as air or water. If you have felt the air rush by a moving truck or have seen the waves created by a moving boat then you have seen a wake.
We use the world “turbulence” because the wake created by an airplane can be turbulent and potentially dangerous. In fact, wake turbulence has been a contributing factor in many fatal accidents. In 2001, an American Airlines A-300 lost control and crashed after encountering wake turbulence created by a Japan Airlines 747.
Communicating wake turbulence
Most of the time air traffic controllers will warn pilots of wake turbulence prior to taking off or landing. Here are a few audio samples of what you might expect to hear over the radio.
“N4247E JFK Tower, cleared to land runway 4L behind the Air China 747. Caution, wake turbulence.”
“N4247E Atlanta Tower, cleared for takeoff runway 9L. Caution, wake turbulence.”