Foul Weather Plagues Football Game And Flight

September 19, 2010

in Weather Stories

This flight from hell took place in the fall of 2009. My wife and I had a 6am flight from Columbia, MO to Detroit, MI via Memphis, TN.

First, I must say that my wife and I are both frequent fliers, and we are used to flying on all types of airplanes, including small turboprops. Our small local airport in Columbia is only serviced 3 times a day and all of these flights go to Memphis. Last fall all of these flights were in the Saab 340 Turboprop. They have since all been upgraded to a Canadair 200 Regional Jet.

The flight took place on a Friday morning, and the night before we had attended the Mizzou/Nebraska football game which was televised on ESPN. During the whole game it was pouring rain and needless to say we were absolutely drenched. But, being devout Mizzou fans and football season ticket holders, we were not going to miss it. We got home late and only had a couple of hours to sleep before we had to make our way to the airport. The rain had not let up at all, and I was confident that our flight was never going to leave on time, if at all. With a quick look at the radar on my BlackBerry, I noticed that between Columbia and Memphis there were very heavy storms.

When we got to the airport we lined up for security and we noticed a lot of ESPN employees on this flight. The plane only seats 34 people and I would guess 10 of them were with ESPN based on their logoed attire. With all of these ESPN folks the flight was completely full. We boarded the flight and taxied out to the runway. The rain was still coming down in buckets and it was very windy. The pilot made an announcement telling us that we were going to have to wait for ATC clearance and that it might take some time. So we sat at the end of the runway for a long time, maybe around 30 minutes. During this time I fell asleep and my thought was, “There is no way we’re flying in this stuff.” Eventually we started rolling down the runway and I turned to my wife and said, “I have a feeling this is going to be a rough one.”

I had no idea what we were in for. The first 15 minutes wasn’t bad, but then all hell broke loose. I have experienced turbulence before, but I’m telling you this was the worst ever. It felt like someone had their hands around the plane and they were violently shaking it. This turbulence was non-stop and it continued to be violent for the rest of the flight. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the pilot announced that due to wind shear in Memphis the airport was closed and we were going to have to circle for a while. This flight, which is normally an hour, was now pushed to two hours as we circled about 50 miles from the airport in the storm with this severe turbulence. Turbulence has not ever scared me before, but this did. All I could think of was how long can this little tin can take this kind of punishment? I was just waiting for one of the engines to fall off the wing.

Several people around the plane were now using their barf bags, including an ESPN guy sitting directly behind us. His barfing started a chain of several others around us barfing. I would estimate that half the folks on this plane were barfing. I’m just thankful that my wife and I don’t suffer from motion sickness.

About 30 minutes into our circling, I could not wait to pee any longer. So, even though we were not supposed to get up, I went up front to the lavatory. The flight attendant who was strapped in up there told me to return to my seat. I told him there was no way that was happening until I relieved myself. As I was leaving the lavatory I noticed a guy in the front row was a Captain, based on the four stripes on his jacket. I asked him if he was nervous in this heavy turbulence and all he said was, “Yes!”

We finally made it to Memphis, and as we touched down everyone on the plane cheered. I was never so happy to be on the ground.

We still had a flight to Detroit, and as we prepared to takeoff the Captain said that the climb-out was going to be a “little rough.” Since this flight was on a DC-9 we were able to climb above the weather, but not before we had about 20 minutes of the violent stuff again. Again, several folks were using barf bags, but I felt especially bad for the guy a few rows behind us who was either unable to get a barf bag in time, or he just didn’t have one. I noticed him later in the flight when I went back to the lavatory. He had barf all over his shirt. Even though this flight was bad for me and my wife, this was really a flight from hell for him.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

poco September 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Sounds brutal.


madachode September 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

You got what you paid for, no one can control the weather, and obviously you arrived at your destination so what are you complaining about? Next time stay at home or drive if you can't hack the ride.


paul September 20, 2010 at 6:46 am

Madachode….Hes complaining about a flight from hell……exactly what this site is all about.

This was his flight from hell and frankly it would be mine too.

Get with the program.


Tom September 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Didn't really think I was complaining, just sharing my flight from hell. I think I kept a non-complaining attitude. I totally understand that the person who controls the weather sits way up higher in the sky than I do. I just happened to be up in it on a day He decided we needed some rain.


J September 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Did you exaggerate a little maybe with a pilot telling you he was scared? Hey sorry if Im mistaken but I don't think a pilot would ever say that to a passenger while onboard a flight.


Tom September 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I didn't ask him if he was scared, I asked him if he was nervous. There is a difference. And no, there is no exaggeration.


J September 23, 2010 at 12:41 am

Sorry Tom , not saying you were but hypothetically you could have been a passenger on the verge of a panic attack or with a heart condition or a passenger within earshot of your conversation could have been and I don't think a pilot would have chanced upsetting a passenger by admitting to be nervous to a passenger in an open cabin on a flight in the midst of turbulence.


Tom September 23, 2010 at 11:11 am


This whole flight was right on the verge of panic due to the turbulence, and all the puking people didn't help either. Also, a turboprop aircraft is very loud so really only 1 or 2 other people would have heard this exchange anyway. Keep in mind, pilots are human too, and I think even the guys sitting up front were nervous. You could tell that each time they spoke on the PA.


SLN September 30, 2010 at 9:28 am

If you got up and used the bathroom without injury then this was not "severe" turbulence.


Lauren May 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Why is everyone being so harsh on Tom? I thought this was a well-written piece exactly in line with the spirit of this site. Thanks for sharing, and I hope you never go through anything like that again!


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