Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yea Baby!!!!

For several years now, I’ve been travelling to various places like Italy, Paris, England, Florida, Puerto Rico to name a few. Each place that I’ve gone to would required a plane ride of some sort. I have to admit I’m not a frequent flier like most of my fellow employees and/or friends, but I’ve had my share of flights. Recently I had to travel to Joplin Missouri for work. I was part of team that had to visit a vendor to determine if they could meet our company’s needs.

Joplin is a small town in Missouri that about a year ago, a tornado had passed through the town which created a lot of damage. The devastation was still pretty evident while there, but you could certainly see a lot of improvements. This story is really not about Joplin but my flight home from Joplin.

I had placed a Facebook status that read, “Interesting day... Emergency landing into Atlanta, Georgia. Because steering didn't work. Landed safely however. God was looking over me today.”

I felt compelled to explain a little more with regards to this statement I had posted. I was returning home on November 15, 2012 from my business trip. My flight was from Springfield, Missouri to Hartford CT via Atlanta, Georgia. The incident happened when I was flying into Atlanta Georgia in a Canadair Jet. Let’s call the Airline Bob….

The flight was going well when we unexpectedly hit a pocket of turbulence. Usually on flights you get small turbulence and eventually it works up to a bigger one. But this was big enough where my book closed on my tray table and fell to the floor. If I had a soft drink, the fluids would have landed on me and/or the person next to me. The plane drops a couple of feet. But, then it was over. The turbulence was instant and quick. I didn’t think of anything of it at the time, nor did anyone else on the flight. The stewardess continued on her business working the cabin as if it was normal.

As we were in our final approach to land into Atlanta, the plane was descending and you could hear the mechanics of the wheels coming from the bottom of the plan. The plane was slowing down. Everything was normal. About 1 minute into our final approach, the plane started to accelerate and gain altitude. The plane then banked hard to the left, away from the airport. I had looked out my window and realized that we were climbing rapidly. I had looked to the person to my left and we both had the same expression. “I think we just got waved off” I said.

After leveling out, the pilot announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have to conduct an emergency landing, there appears to be a malfunction” Then he signed off.

The plane was silenced. Mentally, my mind started to race, what could it be? Why are we not turning? Is the plane unable to turn? Are the wheels unable to come out? What are we going to do? How are we going to get on the ground?

Then I start to think of my love ones; my wife, and my kids and my family and friends…I said a prayer and it calmed my nervous. I begin to focus on the situation. Control what you can, you can’t control everything ran through my mind. Something I had learned when I was in the military.

The gentleman besides me attempted to make small talk, but I was too focused on the situation and don’t remember what he asked. It felt like an eternity before the pilot returned and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the malfunction is that we are unable to steer the plane when we land. Because of this we have to announce that it’s an emergency. Basically we can land ok, but we are unable to steer to the gate. So we will have to have a tow truck pick us up at the end of the run way. When we land you will see fire trucks, it is only for precaution, do don’t worry”

My mind was a little at ease for a moment. But, I have to admit the mind is powerful and could be your worst enemy. I started to think, ok we can’t steer, and so does that mean the wheels are turned to the left or right? When we land will the plane turn instantly to the right or left? Will the front of the plane wheels break? Will the front of the plane collapse down and screech across the tarmac? What other malfunctions are there?

Control what you can, you can’t control everything…

I felt thirsty; I had a soda bottle in my backpack and decided to take a drink. As I opened the bottle, the carbonation pressure was built up and had released a loud “ssssssss”. Instantly everyone around me looked in my direction, I responded with, “my soda bottle, sorry” as I lifted up the bottle to show the source of the noise. I kind of smiled internally realizing that I wasn’t the only one with the built up stress.

The mental pressure of the passengers within the cabin was extremely high. If the engine wasn’t rumbling, you would be able to hear a pin drop. The final approach… The longest 20 minutes I could remember.

As the plane descended, the ground was approaching rapidly. You could hear the wheels expose themselves from the bottom of the plane. I double checked my seat belt. The plane continued to rapidly descend to the ground. As I looked out the window I started to see the runway lights. “Here we go” I stated… I placed my hands on the chair in front of me to brace myself if there was a situation…

The first impact of the rear left wheel hit the tarmac. The plane swayed to left then to the right as the right wheel hits the tarmac. The front of the plane was still angled towards the sky as its dual engine began to whine even louder, as to reverse the forward progression of the plane. The front of the plane began to descend down towards the tarmac. The impact of the front of the plane was minimal. I remember thinking as the wheels touched the ground, no cracking sound of metal, thank you Lord…

As the plane continued to decelerate, the relief of being on the ground grew within me. I began to realize that we were safe, that the main danger was now behind us. Blood began to circulate into my fingers as I gently release the death grip that I had on the seat in front of me.

The joy of passing this test had overwhelmed me. I scream loudly, “Yeah Baby!!! That is what I’m talking about!!!!” I then proceed to clap loudly as the plane came to a complete stop…. The passengers within the plane instantly realized my emotion and begin to cheer and clap as well…

We sat on the tarmac for about 30 minutes before the tow truck arrived. But it didn’t matter; I was on the ground, safely… While writing this I do remember telling someone that, landing a plane is really a controlled crash…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone....

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