Earthquake In The Sky

September 13, 2008

in Weather Stories

I don’t fly much, maybe two or three times a year tops. I flew to Florida this year to be in my best friend from high school’s beach wedding in June. I flew with Air Tran from Philadelphia and I had a stop in Atlanta. I should say here I NEVER have any issues at all with Air Tran – the staff is always courteous, the flight crews are excellent and the flights are usually uneventful. Atlanta, on the other hand, is a different story – something weird always seems to happen to me when I’m going through Atlanta. This trip was no different.

The flight down was quiet and everything was going fine until I had to try and switch terminals in Atlanta. That’s a different story for a different time. My issue here was the way back. My friend got married in Ft. Myers on the Gulf of Mexico. The weather was alternately cloudy and sunny, with some rainy times during the few days I was there. Flying back to Philly, the weather was a tad cloudy and not raining at all when we took off – perfect for flying. Or so I thought.

We went out over the Gulf heading to Atlanta for our lay over. This is where the trouble starts. About an hour into the flight, the plane starting shaking – a little turbulence, no problem. The shaking gets worse; they put on the seatbelt sign. By this point, I’m starting to get a little nervous and I turn off my MP3 player. Then the plane suddenly dips – big time. The girl next to me nearly got smashed in the face with her own lap top. Next thing I know, the flight attendants are wrestling the beverage carts back into the galleys and strapping themselves in.

For about twenty or thirty minutes, being on that plane was like being strapped to a chair in the middle of a massive earthquake. The plane dropped a few times, the pilots kept making re-assuring announcements, etc. Turns out we had hit a really nasty storm flying out over the Gulf of Mexico and were trying to fly our way out of it.

When we finally got to Atlanta, we hit the runway kind of hard and the pilots slammed on the brakes – throwing everything forward in the overhead bins and getting a chorus of colorful language from the adults onboard.

By that point, I was seriously debating the merits of renting a car and driving back home rather than getting on my connecting flight to Philly. I got off the plane shaking so bad I had issues getting my cell phone open. I didn’t know whether I was going to start crying right there or throw up. I talked to my mom (I’m 30-years-old and not in the least bit ashamed I called my mommy) and she calmed me down after about ten minutes, convincing me to get on the next plane. Thankfully, it was a blissfully smooth flight.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Liza September 23, 2008 at 6:14 am

wow — an earthquake in the sky. those pilots were giants in their field! Hooray for getting you back safely


madachode September 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

why are you complaining about something that you paid for already?


Jersey Girl October 3, 2008 at 6:35 am

Obviously the poor passenger was totally terrified- it doesn't sound like a complaint at all.


Shakinthefat October 9, 2008 at 11:22 am

People pay alot of money at Disney Worldfor a ride like that you got.


Osaki October 31, 2008 at 11:59 am

Uggg… I know the feeling. We had a similar flight from NY to Chicago just two years back. By the end of the flight some passengers were holding little paper bags hoping not to use them, and some had tears streaming down their faces. "Welcome aboard!"


Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 2:23 pm

pilots usually slam on their brakes… you know, to stop. because, you know, there is an END to the runway, and you were traveling in excess of 150 knots, so they kind of need to do this quickly.


Sheila November 5, 2008 at 10:46 am

I was on a flight like that once – my husband had to hold down a flight attendant after she flew up in the air once. It was actually quite fun and I asked if we could circle back around.


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 10:46 am

I wish every flight was like this. Turbulence is so much more fun than boring than smooth flights.


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Turbulence like that has made my fiancee deathly afraid of flying ever again. >< His experience was a year ago.


Rob April 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

That's called 'turbulence', and usually it doesn't require visible evidence. Just like the ocean, where you can swim through warmer and colder levels, our air is not a monolithic structure.

It has layers where things are friendlier, but unlike ocean-water, it less predictable. There are trends, and we call these 'forecasts'.

Next time, drive. That drunk on the road is not predictable either, so look out!


Steph April 7, 2009 at 5:04 am

At least the pilots made reassuring remarks. You downplay it, but I would actually like them to more often let us know that while the turblence we're experiencing is uncomfortable, and even worrisome, it's not really dangerous (there are no gurantees, of course). I usually just get an announcement from a flight attendant that the captain has fastened the seat belt sign. Once a pilot simply said over the intercom, "Thunderstorms." Soon after that we dipped down, like on a roller coaster, and I noticed two people: those, especially kids, who said "Whee!," and those, like me, who said "Oh, #%$#!"


Nacho April 24, 2009 at 9:04 am

Haha, Steph, I totally would have been one of the adults yelling profanities.

I'm fortunate that I have yet to come across a turbulent flight. Not that I fly often (I'm 24 and have flown less than ten times), but I'm pretty sure the number of flights I take would be abruptly cut off if I ever went through an experience like the OP did. ::shudders::


Laura Cardwell May 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm

That sounds terrifying. I would be spending the entire time stressing that other passengers would start vomiting.


123ejdude123 June 26, 2009 at 5:42 am

hey ive been through worse just be glad the plane didnt crash


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