I’ve been flying for years. For the past ten I’ve traveled by air 3-4 times annually for work, plus usually took some sort of vacation with my sisters or family. No problem. Board. Stuff my carryon in the overhead. Take my seat and hope for the best--that is, hope not to be scrunched by the person next to me as his or her arm or leg encroaches into my area. I hate that. I always keep my arms within my allotted space. But isn’t it amazing how, without even the slightest twinge of guilt, someone can keep their arm on the entire armrest for the whole trip? It happens all the time. Once I sat next to a man who, for no reason I can fathom other than wanting to be contrary, wedged his briefcase and knees—didn’t know it was possible-- against the back of my seatback so I couldn’t recline.
During flight I’m not much for talking, but I will if my neighbors seem friendly and want to. I’m happy to carry on a conversation. But mostly I read or sleep or think. It’s amazing how trusting we are as a whole, allowing a total stranger, the pilot, to hold our lives in the palm of his hand, whether it be a steady, trustworthy one, or one less experienced. Who’s to know?
This is where my story begins. In March, my extended family--sisters, brother-in-laws, nieces and grandnephew--had to travel from California to Kentucky. We were all on one flight, and the reason for that would be a topic for a whole other blog. First let me say, I had the worst seat on the plane. Last row, middle seat, engine covering the window. There was no way of seeing anything unless I got up and looked over the shoulder of the person in the row ahead of me. We were descending into our connecting city, Fort Worth.
On my right was a sleeping soldier, and on my left my husband, next to the isle. When you can’t see, everything seems to slow down, so I wasn’t surprised when I began to fret that our descent seemed to be taking a very long time. Just then the plane surged forward, as if the pilot had stepped on the gas for some reason, instead of slowing down. I froze. The acceleration let up. I exhaled. Moments later we plunged forward and slightly downward again, like a rock pitched by a mighty arm. This time I grabbed for my husband’s arm and gave him a look. His eyebrows arched up knowingly. I looked around. Tried to stay calm.
The plane continued to surge forcefully forward, then let up for a moment or two. Each time it happened, I thought that would be the end of it. My husband, realizing my state of near-panic, began to crane his neck around to see out a window; then he told me we were almost down. He could see the ground. We would touch the tarmac in moments. Well, if that was the case, why were we thrusting forward yet again with a power I’d never experienced before?
It was then I knew this was it. I believed with all my heart I was about to die. At least my boys aren’t on this plane, I thought desperately. My youngest couldn’t get out of his advanced individual training with the Army and my oldest, who was in school at Purdue, was driving down. Thank God they would be spared.
The plane was deadly quiet, as I believe everyone was having the same thoughts as I was. We were ready for anything. To crash. To explode. Something was very wrong. Then, again unexpectedly, the nose pulled up sharply and the throttle, if that is what it’s called in a plane, felt as if it had been pushed completely forward, the ascent was so strong. Of course I was praying for all I was worth. After a minute or two, the pilot came on the sound system. He said that the wind was very strong and the gusts (I was so rattled I can’t remember how strong he said they were) were making landing too dangerous. As a result, the tower had advised him to abort the landing and try coming in from the other direction, where we’d be going into the wind, instead of with it. From there it was an easy landing, if you can call drenched in sweat and shaken to the core “easy.”
In my eyes, this pilot was a hero. He brought us back to earth in one piece and, happily, I’m here to tell the story. Like a bad dream, it’s in the telling that makes the nightmare less potent. I’m sure lots of you have similar accounts. Since we’re all getting ready to board for Nationals, I thought (in a crazy sort of way) it would be fun to share our stories. Have you had a flying experience that was less than wonderful in some way? Or, on the other hand, what is it about flying that you absolutely adore? We’d love to hear....
And, speaking of flying high, to celebrate the coming release of my debut novel, Where The Wind Blows, I'm giving away an advance copy to someone who leaves a comment. Also, August 1st. will kickoff my Under a Western Sky Contest, with a grand prize of a night’s stay in a bunkhouse (with an outdoor shower and a bed as big as Montana!). So be sure to check out my website www.carolinefyffe.com for all the details.
Don't know why my book cover uploaded in the strange blue tones. Just pretend it's at night.....