Saturday, April 9, 2016

Delta Flight 2650

Monday this week I hopped a plane that left Kansas City for Atlanta at 5:30 pm.  My connecting flight in Atlanta was to leave at 9:30 and arrive and 11:15 pm.  That was flight 2650.

There were problems with this flight from the beginning.  First we were delayed 20 minutes.  The old "no explanation delay."  They are common, so no one was concerned.  Once boarded, the plane is backing out and the flight attendants are doing their security demonstration.  The pilot interrupts and we have to return to the gate.  There is a mechanical issue.  One of the generators is acting up and it must be repaired.  [A generator provides power to the plane.]  I have actually had this happen before, so I was not concerned.

After about 30 minutes, we started the process all over again.  Pull out from the gate, wait in line it Atlanta for your turn to take off, and then off we go.  I noticed that on take off we seemed to have trouble getting off the ground.  The pilot pulled up sharply at the end, and we were airborne.  All seemed fine.  We reached 10,000 feet and the chairs laid back.  Nap time.  We had reached our cruising altitude of 25,000 feet or so.  The flight attendants were starting beverage service.  Then it happened.

The lights went out inside the plane.  The plane began to act funny.  Now I have been in turbulence before.  Once on a flight to Paris, the turbulence was so bad that people were crying.  The French grandmother next to me took my hand.  So I have been through some turbulence.  This was different.

Beverage service was stopped.  The flight attendants took their seats.  Nothing was said.  But nothing had to be said.  Everyone on the plane knew that this was not normal.  The MD-88 hopped up and down, it bounced, it floated up, and then rapidly downward.  It rolled left and right, so sharply that you thought we were turning, but it was just the plane swaying back and forth like a drunk dancer.

Then the rapid decent.  We probably dropped 10,000 feet.  There was a serious problem.  There was tension in the cabin.  The door to the cockpit is open now and the flight attendant is talking to the pilot through the open door.

Finally the pilot comes on and tells us that the generator is out and we are returning to Atlanta.  Actually we have lost the left engine but he does not tell us that.  The next 15 minutes are some of the most chilling that I have ever experienced in my life.  More rapid descent.  More hopping and swaying.

As I consider the seriousness of this situation I write a few texts on my i-pad to my wife.  A few words about love and peace.   I know that they will not send because it is airplane mode, but maybe someday she will read them and know that I was OK.  I look for Fernando Ortega music on my i-pad, but I never loaded him.  So I go for the next peaceful thing and I turn on Peter Paul and Mary.  I am determined that no matter what, I am going to lean into my faith and rest in God.  Peace, peace, peace I tell myself.

This plane is sick, very sick.  And we are very very low.  We are low like you are on the last approach to the runway........ we are low like this for ten minutes.  Several times you can hear the plane screaming, trying to accelerate to gain altitude.  We are approaching for landing, but the plane is pitched up, trying to climb.  I was concerned that we were going to stall.

Finally, I can see the airport.  The pilot comes on, "brace for landing."  We hit hard.  Much harder than I have ever landed before.  The plane tries to slow, but we have lost much of the ability to slow down.  The pilot is riding the brakes hard.  The plane is shuddering.  Emergency vehicles are now to be seen racing along side 2650.  It takes a long time, but finally we stop.

The pilot comes on and tells us that everything is OK. We will be towed into the gate.  Disaster diverted.  Life given back.  This cat only has 8 lives left.

It is a really really beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

1 comment:

Alice said...

Wow Jeff!!!! So thankful! You had 2 amazing pilots!!!