Fear of flying: What is air turbulence and should I be scared?

Climate change could make turbulence on transatlantic flights a lot more common - and a lot more powerful, says a new study.

So do you need panic every time the pilot says the aircraft is hitting a rough patch?

Well don't! Turbulence is completely normal and is rarely dangerous.

See also: Flights to get bumpier due to climate change

See also: Which is the best plane seat for the smoothest ride?

Planes travel on wind flow; so when the air is smooth, so is your flight.

Sometimes, there's a change in the direction of the air, or the pressure changes, causing the 'bumps' you feel.

It's a bit like being in a canoe on a river. The river bends and curves, gets shallow and deeper and is filled with rocks. Your canoe will rise, fall and sway as it makes its way across the river. The same thing is happening to an aircraft as it travels across the sky.

Interference in the air is caused by changes in the air temperature, mountain or tall structure like a rock, or air rapidly changing direction.

Modern aircraft are designed to withstand massive winds, giant air pockets, and even lightning strikes. And even when the going gets tough, a jet wing in extreme conditions can bend up to 90 degrees.

More importantly, pilots are completely prepared to navigate through turbulence and often know about it in advance, usually enabling them to circumnavigate the worst of it or to slow the plane down to turbulence penetration speed, just like a car going over a speed bump, making for a smoother ride.

So what can you do? Sit back and enjoy the ride - but just make sure your seatbelt is buckled up.