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The Airliner I was on that Almost Crashed

posted 6/1/2009 12:27:29 PM |
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The last time I flew, about seven years ago, while we were landing a major tornadic storm front came through the airport when we were about 300 feet above the runway. I remember this in detail and will continue to for the rest of my life. It was one of those things that happened in seconds but you recall in slow motion that is out of space in time.

I was sitting on the right side of the plane. The straight line winds at the leading edge of the front (I found out later that they were measured at 70 MPH at the airport) lifted the left wing up about 45 degrees. I looked out the window to my right and all I could see was asphalt and the white center lines. I was calm for some reason and in an instant wryly thought, "mother fucker, there is going to be a 240 pound pizza on the tarmac with my drivers license in the back pocket."

The pilot then responded beautifully by pulling the right wing up while simultaneously increasing the altitude. Once in level flight, the pilot rapidly brought the plane down to the runway for a successful landing. The aircraft bounced a couple of times then rapidly decelerated as we were running out of runway. All you could see out the window was sheets of rain and lightning.

Once we slowed and turned off the runway to taxi to the terminal, I glanced at the elderly woman sitting next to me. She was snow white, her mouth was agape looking like a dead fish, and her eyes were wide open staring straight ahead. I noticed her hand grasping the armrest with all of her might. I then became aware of women crying and sobbing. I looked around and very few people were moving, they seemed to sit there in suspended animation as the plane shimmied with the heavy winds of the storm.

Then we docked at the terminal, but they would not let us disembark. The flight attendants moved up and down the aisle comforting the passengers that remained freaked out. After what seemed like five minutes of sitting there with the rain and winds still buffeting the plane, I stood up as a flight attendant approached. I motioned to her and she came over. So as to avoid alarming other passengers, I got close to her ear and softly said, “If a tornado hits us, it is going to rip this son of a bitch open like an aluminum can. We need to get the hell off of this plane.” She just nodded saying nothing. Apparently about a minute later, the powers that be reached the same conclusion.

While departing, nobody said a word. When I got to the cockpit, the pilot was standing at the entrance to the cabin. She was about 40 years old. I paused and extended my hand. As I was shaking her hand I said, “Captain, that was some damned good flying.”

The next day I went to retrieve my luggage. When I got to the airport I saw coverings in the parking lot bent over and sheets of metal strewn about. News reports covered the storm and the calamity at the airport including damage to or destruction of, many smaller planes. It remained unknown whether that damage was from straight line winds, a tornado, or both.

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Jun 1 @ 12:39PM  
I'm glad it wasn't your time.

It's a reminder of how small and insignificant we can be in the face of mother nature.

Jun 1 @ 1:20PM  
Yet another example of why people spend all there life honing skills that thay will probably use only once, if ever, (I'm thinking she probably blushed when you pointed out her Valor). The compensation for which is, from time to time, measured in hand shakes of gratitude rather then treasure.

You know of course ... your a one lucky dog!

May the the lucky star always guide your course.

Master Gry


Jun 1 @ 1:24PM  
It was one of those things that happened in seconds but you recall in slow motion that is out of space in time.
That's precisely how these moments feel.

I've had two instances on airplanes which gave me great pause, but nothing as dramatic as yours. Pleased knowing you are still with us.

Jun 1 @ 1:39PM  
Hell yeah, something like that would be surreal. I'm kinda like you, Bruce- calm as a rock, but unlike you, I'm spastic and freaking out inside. The pilot-lady was awesome. Awesome like Capt. Sully who landed in the Hudson. Awesome like anyone who remains poised in the face of unforeseen circumstances and near-tragedy.

Good story.

Jun 1 @ 1:45PM  
Just one of the many reasons I jumped out of planes
a lot more than landed
Although I have landed in some god-awful conditions
on some god-awful landing strips throughout the world..

Jun 1 @ 2:08PM  
I've always loved flying until the last time I flew to Phoenix and back. For some reason I was always glad to be back on the ground. It's still awesome but makes me nervous anymore.

So glad you're with us....who else would I have to squabble with and talk to on the phone?

Jun 1 @ 2:11PM  
I was flying into Harlingen TX back in March '91 during the weekend of the air show. We were low in the glide path for landing. coming in from the North, and all of a sudden, the pilot kicks it in the ass, pulls up, and then stands it on one wing and does a 180 around the airport to land on the same runway from the South.

I asked the stewardess as I was getting off, if that was for the benefit of the airshow, or an "oops". She replied, I don't know what you mean"
Guess it was an "oops".

Jun 1 @ 2:13PM  
Just one of the many reasons I jumped out of planes a lot more than landed

If I felt compelled to jump out of aircraft more than I stayed put and allowed it to land, I think I would consider alternative modes of transportation.

Jun 1 @ 2:20PM  
I've only been on a plane once. It flew through a thunderstorm, which I thought at the time looked awesome. (I was 18 yrs old). It wasn't a severe storm, just a loud one.

But, I can say, I do understand the
It was one of those things that happened in seconds but you recall in slow motion that is out of space in time.
because of a car accident I was in....and yeah, I was 18 yrs old then too. I can honestly 18, I was not bored! The car accident, btw, was a rollover...cops estimated that the car flipped at least 7 times. Don't know how they came to that number, but I do know that at the time, it felt like it was in slow motion, and like it was never going to stop. I also remember feeling awfully stiff and sore for about a week after that.

Jun 1 @ 4:28PM  
When I used to fly out to Columbia Missouri to visit a friend in college there I used to have to change planes twice to get there. First I would fly into Chicago and then take Ozark Airlines from there to St Louis and change to a small plane to fly to Columbia Missouri. On this trip I was supposed to have a three hour layover in Chicago but a blizzard was coming in so they put me on an early flight out of there to St Louis. All went well until I had to take the small plane in St Louis. This plane looked like a World War II reject. About five minutes after taking off we hit one of those Missouri ice storms. Ice was forming on the wings and the whole flight felt like bumpy railroad tracks. The wings looked like they were starting to almost bend. We lost altitude a number of times and then when we got to Columbia we couldn't land because they were trying to clear the runway. We finally started putting down and then we were going kind of lopsided down the runway. Finally we got off the plane and had to go down steps which were slick with ice onto a runway that was not in much better condition. I got there on Friday and my Luggage got in from Chicago on Monday. The hotel lost electric from the ice storm. That was the last time I took a trip out that way in the middle of January.
I don't think they would let a plane take off in those conditions these days. At least I hope not.

Jun 1 @ 5:41PM  
I've been on flights in thunderstorms but nothing close to a tornado. The only thing close to that experience I had is when my dad was approaching the runway. The wheels barely hit the ground when the plane shot straight up in the air. We had hit a hot air pocket. My mom & I were looking bug eyed at each other when it happened.

Jun 1 @ 6:45PM  
Way glad your still here!!!

Jun 1 @ 8:18PM  
If I felt compelled to jump out of aircraft

Well, when you join Airborne it's just part of the job..
I still jump on occasion..Nothin' like the freedom of flying

Jun 1 @ 9:25PM  
I have yet to fly on a plane...

Jun 1 @ 9:56PM  
I betcha they had to replace the seat cushions on that plane.. talk about pucker marks!

Jun 1 @ 10:12PM  
I am sure more than one or two found out that farts can have lumps. You never know how you will respond to something like that and I was so fucking nonchalant.

Jun 2 @ 1:22AM  
First, I'm glad the pilot was so quick to react and all of you made it safely.

Secondly, and was this story supposed to help me WANT to fly???

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The Airliner I was on that Almost Crashed