I first learned about wake turbulence in 1986 while watching the movie Top Gun. You remember that flick, don’t you? It was wake turbulence (they called it jet wash) that resulted in the death of Goose. Maverick was doing some of his “pilot shit”, got too close to another aircraft in a simulated dog fight, went into a flat spin from which he could not recover, and ejected. Maverick was OK. Goose, on the other hand, smacked his head on the canopy as he ejected, and was dead when he hit the water.
The dangers of wake turbulence were not resolved during the hearing that ruled that Maverick was not at fault in the death of Goose. Besides, Goose went on to star in a TV series and has had a number of parts on the big screen. Today, pilots are very careful to avoid the wake produced by another aircraft, but sometimes they do get too close.
Our flight from LAX to Las Vegas was late. In fact, we never boarded the scheduled aircraft. The incoming flight to LAX (our outgoing aircraft to Las Vegas) originated in Oakland in route to LAX. The 737 flown by Southwest got to close to an A380, notorious for its very large size and the substantial wake produced. I should note that the A380 is no longer manufactured. The rapid drop in altitude of the 737 that resulted from wake turbulence caused the drinks that had been served to jump out of their cups only to go back in the cups, for the most part. A flight attendant, who was not in her seat with a seatbelt on, was tossed around and broke her leg. Wear those belts, and tightly! She was shaken, and in pain. The LAX rescue squad was there on the spot to get her off the plane and under care as soon as the flight had pulled up to the jet way.
The 737 aircraft was taken off line so that it could be checked out in case there was lasting damage. The crew and continuing passengers were transferred to a new aircraft, and that’s when we boarded. The through passengers gave us the full story of what happened. Some were frightened. A teenage lacrosse team thought it was great fun. The pilot was miffed; at least that’s how he sounded when he spoke to us about what had transpired.