Aviation experts issue crucial safety warning to plane passengers after Singapore Airlines flight

Aviation and flight safety experts have issued important advice for plane passengers after a Singapore Airlines flight was hit by "severe turbulence" while travelling from the UK on Tuesday.

One British passenger, a 73-year-old man, sadly died after suffering a suspected heart attack on board, while several others on the flight from London Heathrow to Singapore were seriously injured. The flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, after flight tracking data showed that the aircraft dropped sharply by 6,000 feet as it ran into difficult conditions off the coast of Myanmar.

One of the 211 passengers on board the flight said that everyone not wearing a seatbelt was "launched immediately into the ceiling" when the turbulence occurred, with "very little warning" before the plane's sudden drop. While seatbelt signs will usually be switched on when the flight encounters a patch of turbulence, safety experts have urged passengers to keep theirs fastened at all times when seated in case of a similar incident.

Aviation consultant John Strickland told the PA news agency while "turbulence happens", with millions of flights operated each year serious incidents are "limited" and "fatalities are rare". However, he added: "It can never be taken lightly when airlines recommend you keep the seatbelt loosely fastened throughout the flight."

This advice was echoed by Joji Waites, head of flight safety at pilots' union Balpa, who said: "Aircraft are designed and certificated to withstand flight in severe turbulence, and pilots are trained in how to anticipate potential turbulence encounters based on weather forecasts and the aircraft's onboard technology.

"Route weather forecasts provide a general prediction of when turbulence is likely to occur, but they often cannot reflect actual conditions in sufficient detail to enable pilots to avoid specific instances of turbulence. It is important, therefore, for aircraft occupants to have their seatbelts fastened while seated should any unexpected encounters occur and comply promptly with 'fasten seat belt' signs when asked to do so."

Turbulence is the chaotic movement of air which can cause the sudden movement of an aircraft in flight. It is generally divided into four types, and can be caused by 'waves' of air, which form upon contact with mountains and which can end up hitting an aircraft 'like ocean waves crashing onto a beach', by jet streams and thunderstorms, with a final type known as 'wake turbulence' which occurs as the result of an aircraft producing lift.

Images from on board the plane showed food and debris strewn on the floor of the aircraft following the disruption, while ambulances were pictured waiting on the tarmac at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. A spokesman for Singapore Airlines said 18 people were hospitalised following the emergency landing, with a further 12 requiring treatment in hospital.