The outcome of flying over an earthquake

Why You Don’t Have to Worry about Earthquakes Crushing Your Plane: A Closer Look at the Atmospheric Disturbances Caused by Seismic Activity

Earthquakes can pose a threat to commercial airliners, but not because of the physical shaking of the ground. Instead, it is the atmospheric disturbances created by earthquakes that can have an impact on aircraft in flight. When the ground shakes during an earthquake, it generates microscopic atmospheric waves that can travel to the ionosphere, a dense layer of molecules and charged particles in the atmosphere. These waves can disrupt the atmosphere, but they do not pose a direct risk to aircraft in flight.

Seismic waves released during earthquakes include pressure waves (P waves) and shear waves (S waves). P waves can propagate through other media such as gases, and when they reach the atmosphere, they become infrasound waves with frequencies below the threshold of human hearing. However, these waves weaken as they move through the air and do not affect aircraft flying over earthquakes.

While there are no direct physical effects on planes caused by earthquakes, there may still be safety and navigation issues in their eventuality. For example, an earthquake-induced power outage at an air traffic control base can disrupt navigation equipment and communication capabilities. However, air traffic control facilities are equipped with emergency backup generators to address such situations, ensuring that flights can operate safely even during seismic events.

In conclusion, while earthquakes may not have a significant impact on commercial airliners physically due to their ability to generate atmospheric disturbances that could affect them in flight or cause direct damage to their systems. Nonetheless, it is essential for passengers flying during earthquakes to understand that these natural disasters may cause potential disruptions in communication and navigation systems due to infrastructure damage on the ground while aircraft’s systems are designed to withstand such events and continue operating safely.

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