BumpySkies is a free online service that aims to demystify flight for all commercial air passengers.
Currently, BumpySkies uses public weather and flight data to forecast periods of turbulence along the path of any major-carrier flight between any two points within the continental United States. It operates under the notion that expecting these bumpy patches will make encountering them less surprising and scary for nervous fliers.
In the future, BumpySkies plans to add more features to make flights even more transparent – and therefore pleasant – for all. You can stay informed about BumpySkies’ developments by visiting the BumpySkies forum.
BumpySkies gets all its weather data from NOAA, and all its flight data from FAA. When you ask BumpySkies about an upcoming flight, it looks up how the plane’s planned path corresponds with forecasted atmospheric turbulence, and then presents the results to you as both an image and text.
BumpySkies only looks at the next few hours of weather data, and knows about a flight’s planned route only when its pilots file their plan with the FAA. Therefore, it works best to check shortly before boarding. In flights that offer on-board WiFi, you can check while in the air, too!
My flight's got a lot of turbulence forecasted. Am I in danger?
You are perfectly safe. Turbulence during air travel can be uncomfortable and even scary to passengers, but it poses no danger at all to the safety of a flight. At worst, turbulence might suddenly shift your elevation by a few inches. While your inner ear might quite reasonably express alarm at that, it has zero consequence to a plane cruising at tens of thousands of feet.
If turbulence is so safe, then why does this forecasting tool exist?
I created BumpySkies because I believe that, for many nervous fliers, expecting turbulence -- including its intensity and duration -- makes actually encountering it less surprising and scary.
Think of it not so much a planning tool as a surprise-management device.
I’m going on a flight soon and I feel scared. Can you help?
It’s both common and natural to feel scared or nervous about an upcoming plane trip. BumpySkies was created by a nervous flier, just like you, as a tool you may find useful when finding your own way towards managing your fear.
You might want to read an essay by BumpySkies’ creator with some advice for nervous air passengers, or take a free online course by Captain Stacey Chance to help you gain new perspective on how flight works, and why it’s so safe. If you have the time, Patrick Smith’s book Cockpit Confidential also offers a caring pilot’s advice to wary passengers.
Many other free tools can help you see flight in a new light; try browsing FlightAware, or a mobile app like FlightRadar. See how many commercial flights are zipping around the globe right now, with dozens taking off and landing even while you’re reading this, all without incident.
Realize that during your flight, you’ll be part of a temporary but real community with hundreds of thousands of other people all over the world: those who are all up in the air together, on your way to far-away places. Many of them are nervous, too! But none of you are alone.
Can BumpySkies work for areas outside of the continental United States?
Not at this time. I would like this feature as much as you would! Keep an eye on the news and feedback fourm for updates about new BumpySkies features.
Who pays for this?
The United States government runs both of the organizations that publish the data BumpySkies uses (NOAA and FAA). This turns BumpySkies – and you, its users – into a passive beneficiary of American tax dollars, so there’s that.
The costs of development and hosting and such are otherwise paid for by this service’s creator and maintainer. If you'd like to help out with that, see the next section!
How can I help BumpySkies?
First of all, if you like it, tell your friends about it! The forecast map can make for some eye-catching social-media posts, you know...
If you value the BumpySkies service and can afford to spare a few dollars to help cover its hosting costs and support its ongoing maintenance, please visit the project's Patreon page, with my sincere gratitude.
You can also visit the BumpySkies forum to share your thoughts and experiences using this service, or with flight in general. I am very grateful for all feedback about BumpySkies!
If you are an American citizen, you can help support the science and services that BumpySkies relies on by letting your elected representatives know that you support federally funded climate science. You may also wish to donate, if you can, to charitable organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists who help support and legally defend climate science.
Who created this?
BumpySkies was created and is maintained by Jason McIntosh. Jason loves to visit new, far-away places, but does not love the act of getting there by plane, even though it’s often the only sensible route. He created BumpySkies to make this necessary discomfort more tolerable and less weird and frightening, and he hopes that other people find value in it as well.