Fearful Flight

October 12, 2007

in Airplane Stories

I was flying from Colorado Springs to Washington National via Chicago O’Hare for a training course in the Research Triangle area. During take-off out of Chicago there was a loud noise from underneath the front aircraft, leading the pilot to believe that we may have blown a tire or something on the front landing gear. He came onto the intercom to inform passengers that as a precautionary measure, our flight was being diverted from Washington National to Dulles, as they have a much longer runway should an emergency landing be necessary. The pilot then informed passengers and crew that upon descending into Dulles, we would be circling the airport for a while to burn off any excess fuel and would be following emergency crash-landing procedures as a safety precaution. He would be landing the aircraft “nose high,” keeping the plane’s nose up in the air for as long as possible and all passengers were to remain in crash positions until the aircraft came to a stop. We were further instructed on how to activate the emergency slides, and how to exit the aircraft if there was a problem.

These announcements made the cabin very tense and you could hear a pin drop. Many passengers were so nervous and upset that they had to use the refuse bags. After circling the airport for a couple of hours burning off fuel, the pilot made a low approach over the runway with the gear down. It was completely lined with emergency vehicles, and fire fighting equipment and foam trucks. There were folks on the ground using high powered binoculars so they could attempt to see if we had blown tires on the front nose gear. The pilot reported that ground crews could not see a problem and the decision was made to land.

The pilot began his decent, and the passengers all assumed crash positions. The crew was yelling “BRACE! BRACE!” as the pilot made a perfect “nose high” landing. Finally as the front of the plane came down, we waited for something to collapse… all we heard was the slight screech of tires and the plane landed safely without incident. The entire cabin broke out into applause. We were then told that we were all being driven by bus back to Washington National. Upon boarding the bus, one of the last boarding passengers joked with the driver by asking “Have you checked your tires?,” to which everyone laughed. Ironically, not a single passenger to my knowledge was offered any type of formal apology or compensation by the airline….

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom July 15, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Why should you be compensated or apologized to? Should like a textbook case on how to handle the situation. Scary, yes, but perfectly handled.


Shakinthefat October 9, 2008 at 11:40 am

Why should there be an apology from the airline? It was their fault the tire blew??? You should compensate the pilots for getting you on the ground safely. Unbelievable.


tina April 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

Your apology came in the form of still being alive to tell about it. How rude!


Joe Mama April 9, 2009 at 6:07 am

A simple apology, even if for something that was not the airline's fault, can make a huge difference in customer relations. Something that seems to be lacking in this country these days.


rolf April 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Ya ppl should keep in mind that the pilots and airlines are doing their very best to keep passengers safe and the flight on time when things dont happen as expected.


Laura Cardwell May 28, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Because you know the airline had been planning that for months in advance.

You should be thankful you lived.


someone July 24, 2009 at 5:04 am

I can understand why that would be scary….just as a by the by though, not being offered an apology isn't even close to ironic….sorry but it just isn't


Atarii October 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm

It's sad to me that your final comment about not getting an apology overshadowed the rest of this quite compelling piece of writing.
Perhaps it was the power metal music to which I am listening, but your pros were intense and descriptive. My heart barely beat as I frantically read the words, consumed totally by the story. Excellent writing, I enjoyed it.


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