More than 100 years after the first human flight, airplanes remain a mechanical marvel that very few of us actually understand.

When an airplane encounters severe turbulence, does the pilot manually take over the plane, or is it left on autopilot?

– TRL, New Mexico

Usually, the pilots will leave the autopilot engaged. In small airplanes with limited autopilots it is better to fly manually, but with more sophisticated airplanes the autopilot is a valid option in turbulence.

Severe turbulence is actually very rare. What most passengers think is severe is moderate-to-heavy turbulence. You know it’s severe when unsecured items in the cabin are flying around and maintaining control of the flight path

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