Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Fractured ABC's Of Christmas - J
J is for Jet
A super way to travel
What? No landing gear?
Your nerves begin to unravel
This is a true story. Hold on to your seats!
There was a time in my life where it wasn't uncommon for me to fly 10,000 miles each month. I was based in Washington, DC and flew in and out of DC National. I had been on assignment in Chicago for several months and, as the holidays approached, it was time for me to fly back home for a week's vacation.
Having been in so many airports across the country, I had become accustomed to the routine of arriving ahead of time, checking my luggage and equipment, then making my way to the bar for a cocktail or two as I waited for my flight to be called. Gin and tonic was my designated libation before flying. You know, there's something about a buzz at 35,000 feet. Yeee-hah! Anyway, on this particular day, all was going according to the routine I had followed so many times before.
The flight between Chicago and DC, as usual, was uneventful. As the jet began its descent, everyone buckled their seat belts and returned their seats to the upright position. It's really cool flying over DC, you can see all the monuments and government buildings. You definitely get a different perspective from up above.
As we approached the runway, all was well. Then, at an altitude of about 500 feet over the runway, the jet took a hard vertical climb. What the hell is going on here? There was a gasp that made its way throughout the cabin. As we began to level out, I could see we were leaving the area. As I looked out the window, I could see we were approaching Baltimore-Washington International. Okay, maybe we are landing there for some reason, hmmm. At this point I was calm. It wasn't too unusual that a plane is re-routed due to weather conditions. Did I mention is was snowing?
It was then the captain made the following announcement, "Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain, we are experiencing technical difficulties, we apologize for the delay in landing today. Apparently, our landing gear has failed. We are going to check the manual to attempt to correct this problem". What the fuck?!? No landing gear? You need to check the manual? Oh, god!
The plane then circled back over DC National and I could see emergency vehicles lining the runway. The gentleman sitting next to me was very understanding when I buried my face in his chest and snotted all over his tie, "We're gonna die!". He gently pushed me back to an upright position and assured me that, even though we may have to land on foam, we'd be okay - provided we don't skid into the Potomac River. Oh, god!!
The things that run through your mind when you are facing death - nope, I won't be embarrassed by my underwear in case I have to be rescued. As we passed the airport for the third time, the captain came back on and announced the tower had confirmed that the landing gear was down and in locked position. But, how does the tower know the landing gear is locked? It could very well collapse when we hit the ground and then we'll be swimming our way to safety through the ice and snow, if we live through this. Oh, god!!!
As the plane finally approached the runway, I got religion. I closed my eyes and held my breath as I repeated the "Our Father" over-and-over again. Was the plane breaking apart? Had we hit the river? No, it was just all that jet brake commotion. The next thing I knew, the man next to me was prying my fingers from the arms of the seat telling me we were on the ground safely. I looked out the window and all I could see was white. "Is this heaven?", I asked. "Depends", he replied. "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?"