Rocking And Rolling In Rough Weather

April 2, 2010

in Weather Stories

I had 2 flights from hell oddly enough only a few weeks apart in NOV-DEC 2002.

On the November flight, I was a passenger on a Southwest flight from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago-Midway airport. I had flown this route many times before and it is usually only about a 50 minute trip. On this particular Sunday this area of the Midwest was experiencing a tornado outbreak, very unusual for November. As I got to the airport in Columbus the sky turned increasingly black. About half an hour later they said the flight was delayed indefinitely due to weather. I found it strange when about 15 minutes later they announced boarding. I had a window seat and the weather was getting worse. The pilot came on to say our normally 50 minute trip would be approximately 2 hrs and 25 minutes to divert around the storms.

A strong thunderstorm was approaching the airport as we taxied out. By that time it was too late to get off the plane. I could not believe we were taking off in those weather conditions. I did not see any other airline aircraft movements at Columbus except for ours. The flight was totally silent; no one said a word since everyone was too scared. Lighting was all around the plane. I was near the back and I heard one of the flight attendants say to her co-worker in the opposite jumpseat, “Why are we flying in this weather?” After a very scary flight we landed in Chicago in 55 minutes. It was clear the captain decided to go through the storms and not around them.

The second flight took place about 2 weeks after that, but this time I was a working crew member. I was a flight attendant working the back on a Boeing 737-800 out of Chicago-Midway to St. Pete, FL on ATA. The first leg of our flight from Denver-Midway had been a piece of cake; very light load and smooth flight. My flying partner, who was working the back of the plane with me, joked we would probably have to have payback for it being so easy and would probably crash later.

On the 2nd leg from Chicago-St. Pete, the flight was smooth until our descent for landing. This was at night so it was dark and the cockpit had called back and told us to get everything put away, lock up and strap ourselves in because it was going to be very bumpy once we started down into the clouds. That was an understatement. It felt as though we were being slammed continuosly into a concrete wall. My flying partner and I were sitting strapped in the jumpseat. She turned to me and said “I am so sorry I made that joke about us crashing.” We really thought this was it. The area was being hit with torrential rain and strong winds.

When we landed and the passengers had deplaned, I walked forward and saw the captain coming out of the cockpit with a strange look on his face. I said “That was some landing!” He replied, “You should have seen it out of the cockpit window. We had a hard time keeping track of where the runway was!” Luckily the Captain was a very expercienced pilot.

We had to take off and fly through the storm again a half hour later on the last leg to Indianapolis. It was really rocking and rolling again as we took off, but we climbed very quickly, and once above the clouds everything was smooth for the rest of the flight. When I finally got to Indianapolis for the night I had a very stiff drink at the hotel.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Increasedosologist April 5, 2010 at 2:25 am

There are really only 4 weather conditions that make take-offs dangerous:

1) Windshear

2) Unmanagable cross winds due to runway configuration at take-off airport

3) Severe icing

4) If in a jet aircraft – thick wet sticky snowfall, falling heavy enough to reduce visibility to 1/8 mile.

That's it. Severe downpours during the thunderstorms fall under #1 since they usually have downdrafts from cold air or air trapped with falling water. Any weather condition other than the 4 above, does not add enough risk to a take-off to make it worth it waiting it out, as opposed to just flying out of it. Now landing is a whole other story.


Clint November 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm

QUOTE:"I was near the back and I heard one of the flight attendants say to her co-worker in the opposite jumpseat, “Why are we flying in this weather?” After a very scary flight we landed in Chicago in 55 minutes. "

I'm calling B.S. on this one! Due to the fact there is only one SWA F/A that works/sits in the back and there are no jumpseats opposite each other…. nice try to make another airline look worse than yours!


Eli July 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm

The OP didn't even mention what the first plane was. Do you know every single plane configuration in the world?


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