Emergency Landing

8.29.2012


Turbulence is kind of my favorite thing - as I've mentioned before. It just seems kind of thrilling to me because there's just a hint of danger and at the same time, comfort because it's a normal thing when flying. 

When I was in training I just came to the peaceful resolve that I would die in some sort of aviation disaster. Remember in Big Fish when he looks into Helena Bonham Carter's big old future-telling witch eye and says, "Oh, so that's how I go" about his eminent death? That's kind of how it is for me. Bryan doesn't think it's funny. I get that. It's a little dark and twisty. But don't worry, I'll make sure we all get off the plane if something happens. 

About 95% of the training for my job was emergency preparation. (Ahem, I would like everyone to remember that next time you're tempted to refer to me as a waitress). The other 5% is how to toss out packets of peanuts on a twenty-five minute flight without breaking a sweat and still smiling.

On a flight recently, we'd finished our service and as a crew we'd all dispersed in galleys and the cabin. I was collecting trash (and gagging while picking up cups with snot and leftover tomato juice in them). I heard a sound that wasn't normal, and I kind of froze for a moment. Though muffled, it sounded like a bowling ball had been tossed into the right engine. Then it was silent, and then the plane fluttered a little bit like it was made of paper and the power flickered for just a tiny second. 

Most people didn't even seem to notice, save for the man seated right next to that engine that locked eyes with me with a sudden furrowed brow that communicated a high level of concern. As tempted as I was to share that look with him, I just smiled and walked away.

My flight leader stood in the first class cabin, making a face that confirmed that the man and I were not crazy. We stepped into the galley and away from the view of passengers.

"Did you hear that?" I whispered.

"Yes. I'm going to call the captain." She said. 

She called five consecutive times with no answer. 

Confirmation that something wasn't right.

At that point, I just kind of stood there frozen for a second and I am pretty sure my tongue was sweating. I decided that I was an ass for being flippant and saying that I'd be fine to die in the airplane. And then I was like, "Fran shut up it's probably not even a big deal, it's not like there are raptors on the plane."

Once we did talk to the pilots, they confirmed that we'd lost an engine and that, well, they were busy. 

Worth mentioning:

  • Pilots are totally and completely trained and prepared to handle such a situation. They are also the calmest people I've ever met.
  • Commercial airplanes are built in a way that they are safe to continue flying with just one engine.
  • Passengers are 165% more comforted by the Captain making announcements as opposed to the flight attendants (DUH). Mostly because they know what they are doing (we do too, but you know what I mean...they know how to fly the plane). They make everything seem like it's not a big deal. PLUS, our Captain sounded exactly like Kermit the Frog. It was really comforting and I was kind of waiting for him to start singing Rainbow Connection.

Everything was okay. We could have flown safely on to our destination, but the best option was to divert and land at the nearest airport. So, we diverted to Des Moines.

The passengers were so quiet. And they LISTENED TO US! They turned off their iPods, and iPads, and Kindles, and heart monitors when I asked them to. It was miraculous.

(Don't worry, guys. I let people keep their heart monitors on).

Everyone clapped when we landed, and fire trucks were on the runway waiting for us. Just in case. But we didn't need them, because the pilots were awesome and everything went smoothly.

After a few hours in Des Moines another plane came down to retrieve us. We got to fly as passengers, and I was sandwiched between another co-worker and a passenger. The man looked at me and said, 

"Did you watch Lost?"

"Yes...a few seasons."

"Well, what if we really did crash and die and Des Moines was actually the island?"

Hmmm...