Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scariest flight ever (well, for me, anyway)

When you're flying and your plane lands, it's gotta be a bad sign when this is waiting for you:

Photobucket

That's an airport fire engine. Thankfully it was not needed. And I, along with other passengers, was very relieved.

On Friday, we had a mostly uneventful flight from Long Beach, California into Portland, Oregon (where my brother lives). When the plane was over Portland, I was ready to be there. The kids were getting extra-antsy. So it was frustrating when I realized we were circling...and circling...and circling some more. Portland is beautiful from the air, but I was ready to see it up close.

I figured we were waiting for an available runway, until the polite captain's voice came over the speaker. He good-naturedly joked about us getting tired of flying over the city; then he explained what was happening.

"The wings have flaps that are supposed to open to help us slow down," he explained. "When we tried to open those flaps in preparation for landing, a set of them wouldn't open." About this time, my blood pressure must have gone through the roof. The captain continued. "We've been troubleshooting to try to figure out what is wrong, and we haven't been able to get them to work. We're going to have to land without them."

The plane was quiet; for once the captain had the attention of the passengers. He then assured us, "I've been through this a few times before, and it is not a big deal. Everything will be okay. There will be emergency vehicles when we land, just in case the brakes get too hot."

Well, I was glad the captain had assured us everything would be okay (though, as I told the lady sitting across the aisle from me, I wish he'd started with the comforting part of the message.) But I have to admit, I was scared...really scared. I was thinking about how far back in the plane our seats were (almost halfway) and hoping that would be far enough if the plane ran into a building because it couldn't stop. I worried about whether or not we were descending at a faster speed than usual. I prayed and got a measure of peace from that...but I was still really afraid. I think plenty of others were too, though the atmosphere in the plane was calm.

The landing was uneventful. When the captain successfully touched down and brought us to a stop, the passengers burst out in spontaneous applause. I smiled and joined in the applause. As soon as it died down, my throat and eyes surprised me; I realized my body wanted to cry. I avoided that, and settled for an immense feeling of relief; and I could sense that the other passengers were feeling the same thing. The extra-hot brakes didn't start any fires, and after a few minutes we were able to taxi to the gate.

I know this experience could make me more afraid of flying. Instead I'm trying to frame it this way, in my mind: A plane is a complicated piece of machinery. But it's designed and built in such a way that when one thing goes wrong, the plane can usually still function in complete safety. The captain was right; we had nothing to be afraid of. Hopefully if I'm ever in a situation like this again, I'll believe that!

(By the way, here's a great article on airplane wing flaps--I liked the last paragraph especially.)

17 comments:

silver star said...

Wow! That does sound scary, glad you didn't crash into the airport.

Lyndsay said...

Oh Beth, how scary! Seriously I had a lump in my throat just reading that. It is so hard when we face moments that we realize just how out of our control things really are.

beckiwithani said...

Wow, that must have been SO scary. I'm glad there are so many redundant systems on a plane! It's actually very hard for so much to go wrong that it crashes. When I read about the NSTA figuring out the cause of a crash, it's almost always a perfect storm of several things going wrong.

Lisa K. of XSBaggage and Co. said...

Scary! Sounds like you handled it really well though.
Enjoy your time in the Pacific NW!!

Pixel Queen Photography said...

Wow Beth! I'm so glad your ok! You're up in my neck of the woods :-).

Call Me Cate said...

You weren't kidding when you said it was a scary flight! I'm so glad you and Chickie and Zoodle are safely back on the ground.

Sasha said...

Go glad it turned out OK- so glad it was a safe landing!

Janet L. Nowlin said...

Glad to hear you made it ok. Just think about how many people were working together to make sure your plane landed safely.

forever folding laundry said...

Yikes! That is scary. Glad all is well. Hope the rest of your trip is a little less exciting!

~Keri

Scriptor Senex said...

Like you say - these things are designed to be able to cope with a problem or two. But it's far easier to think that when you're one the ground than when you are circling over Portland. Ever so glad it worked out OK.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Wow, that sounds terrifying - I had a lump in my throat just reading about it (and I know you're okay, because you wrote a blog post). I hope you don't have to go through that again!

LEstes65 said...

Whew! You're a brave mommy - holding it together to give you kids a bubble of calm. I'm so glad everything is ok!!!!

Mike Fan said...

Certainly, your last words of this post is a great way to think about the plane trip! Planes are so complex and as a result, so many things could go wrong! I'm so glad your strong faith gave you some peace, and I'm also glad that you are not unreasonable (or you'd certainly be missing out on some great plane trips...)!

addhumorandfaith said...

I have always said that one of my greatest acts of faith is sitting in a plane hurling down a runway and trusting that by the end of the runway it will lift off the ground and FLY! Doesn't make sense to me at all, but it does it! :)

Enjoy Portland. We went to a week-long conference there once. It was the last week in June and the temperature never reached 60! Luckily I had stuck jackets in our luggage, but most of the people at the conference were streaming to the mall across the street from the hotel to buy jackets! But, it WAS beautiful, especially the roses that were everywhere.

Crazy Mo said...

I clutched my chest the entire time I read that! I'm a white-knuckle flyer. I can only imagine the things that would have run through my head when I heard that. I'm so glad we get to continue reading your blog!

Our Scoop said...

Oh my goodness! Praise God that you were all safe.

Kristi said...

This post made MY body want to cry...and I COULDN'T avoid it! Yikes! Glad all went well and I love your perspective!