Ride From Hell Turns Into Bulimia Convention

November 13, 2008

in Weather Stories

In 1993 I was headed from Tucson to the American Library Association conference in New Orleans. I was ticketed on a flight that stopped at DFW where I was to change planes on to New Orleans. About an hour after takeoff from Tucson the captain announced that because of severe weather surrounding DFW the airport had been closed to takeoffs an landings and we would hold in the pattern until things had cleared up a bit and the airport was re-opened. So here we are circling with all the other delayed flights through the very, VERY rough weather that was preventing our landing… NOT comfortable… quite rough.

After about 3 hours of this e-ticket roller coaster ride from hell the captain announced that as our aircraft was getting low on fuel and the airport was not yet reopened he had to find a place to land… he found a place to land … at the small Pecos Texas airport…

Land we did… along with 35 other out of fuel heavies that had been inbound to DFW. The problem was that there was only ONE avgas tanker truck and only room for a few planes of size at the terminal. Like many of the other aircraft ours ended up on the ground on a taxiway in the heat and humidity. The aircraft’s AC was off along with its engines so we deplaned using the rear exit and sat on the taxiway or as I did sat on the front nose gear wheel talking with the pilot. We were not allowed to walk away from the plane and we were 300 yards from the terminal building.

About 4 hours into this charming 6 hour experience a truck from a well-known pizza place showed up and dumped about 25 large pizzas off for the cast and crew and everyone chowed down as we waited for (1) the DFW airport to re-open and (2) the small avgas fuel tanker truck to wend its way toward our aircraft and its now motley and ill-tempered group. Remember we were only one of some 37 aircraft now sitting on the taxiways all over the Pecos airport/stagecoach stop.

Finally after 6 hours on the ground our aircraft was refueled and DFW was reopened to incoming traffic. We took off towards DFW and into now clear skies and also into the very worst clear air turbulence I have ever encountered. Our aircraft was bounced all over the sky. You could see the craft’s wings bowing up and down. The only thing that went up faster than the aircraft was all of that pizza the passengers had so greedily devoured on the ground. It was like a bulimia convention. When people weren’t screaming in panic they were projectile vomiting all over the aircraft. I was a private pilot and had flown aerobatics but the turbulence was rough even for me. I never get airsick… but the cacophony of crying, retching coupled with the wonderful smell almost got me to hurl. The woman beside me was saying the rosary and vomiting… few were using barf bags as they were too busy keeping a death grip on their seats… the fellow behind me kept screaming “I don’t want to DIE” while clutching my seatback so hard I feared he might rip it off. After an hour of this I DID want to die. When we finally landed at DFW and deplaned people could SMELL the flight for at least half the concourse. I still don’t exactly remember how I got to New Orleans…. but I will NEVER forget that flight.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

that is the best one yet. sounds hilarious now, but i feel deeply for everyone on that flight!


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 8:28 am

That is by far the best worst story on this site I have read so far. The title is great too.


Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 11:23 am

Well told story. Made me LOL. I work in the aviation industry my self and always enjoy a good CAT story. Two years ago my boss and I had a delightfull flight in a A36 in which we bounced along from Jackson, MS to Atlanta at a blistering 140knts because of a rare time that the head wind was coming out of the east do to a tropical system off the coast of GA.


Jill April 3, 2009 at 7:33 am

I guess it's funny to read about this sort of story, but at the time, it must have been a scary hell. Stories like these make me want to give up flying the unfriendly skies.

Just glad the plane and the people in it survived.


Rob April 3, 2009 at 8:23 am

You are absolutely right. Airlines should be required to fight the forces of nature. And give you a cookie somewhere along the way.


Dan April 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

Awesome story. The horror makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I once worked for TWA before its demise, so I've flown a lot, I know how planes work, etc. so nothing really scares me when I fly. I was once on another airline's crappy, cramped, ancient DC9-10 which must have been built during the Johnson administration (this happened in the late '80s). It was a short flight, but so rough that the wingtips were flexing what looked like about a foot up and down, and people were hurling fountains of vomit everywhere. I was lucky enough that the seat next to me was unoccupied, so I sat calmly until we landed. But what a nasty flight that was!


Festerdun May 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm

I'd like you to meet my seatmate, Ralph.


Laura Cardwell May 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Nothing is worse than people vomiting on planes. Nothing. It is my worst fear to be on a plane with people vomiting. I had the misfortune to experience that once during a similar circling experience, but it was just my dad. My god what an awful sound that was.


Kara May 31, 2009 at 1:59 pm

This is the best story so far. What a horrendous experience! I am glad that you made it back in one piece.


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