This was the proverbial flight from hell that put me off flying for several years. Back in the mid 80’s I was returning to Calgary from Ottawa during a long cold winter. Waiting to board I watched them de-ice the plane as it must have been at least -20C. Once on board there seemed to be an unusual long delay during which there was a constant din of cargo containers being banged about. The pilot then announced there was a delay in taking off as the plane was overloaded and cargo was being removed.
The snow was starting to come down pretty heavy when we finally pulled away from the gate and got into the long take off queue. Settling back I waited for the DC-10 to crank up its notoriously underpowered engines, brakes off, and the usual sluggish start down the runway. The seconds slowly ticked by as we crawled along just not picking up any speed. After what seemed to be way too long a taxis I glanced across at my fellow passenger sitting by the window and he returned the same concerned look. The nose inched up and suddenly I saw out of the window the perimeter fence at the end of the runway – we must have just scrapped past it! Then BANG and a loud swoosh of air escaping from the overhead vents. A split second later one wing dipped, the plane shuddered and started that terrifying slow pendulum swing – that’s it were done, were going down. And then those frantic seconds of family, what ifs, goodbyes flashed through my head – damn I didn’t pay with a credit card that automatically provides flight insurance!
The swinging slowed but the roaring of the engines didn’t as we just weren’t gaining altitude. The passengers remained deathly quiet. I got the courage to peek out of the window after what seemed like an hour. Below were white snowy covered forests and to my horror I could clearly make out car headlights streaming down a freeway. At last the pilot announced with the usual cheery voice – sorry about that, we blew an air conditioner when we took off, for the rest of the flight I will try to keep you from freezing. Hell, what about the plane being overloaded, iced up, and why are my now frozen feet stuck to the floor? A blissfully cheery flight attendant then announced the liquor beverage service would be free on today’s flight. As the cart was being pushed down the aisle passengers were grabbing bottles. The free booze just kept me warm enough but didn’t console my now fear of flying.