Little Girl Says No To Emergency

August 24, 2009

in Baby & Kid Stories

Back when my daughter was a toddler, perhaps 2.5 or 3 years old, I took a flight with her on AA from LAX to SJC. The plane was a beat up old 737 that American had acquired in its recent buyout of AirCal (the interior purple color scheme gave it away). My daughter was an early reader and could just never get enough – any reading material she could get her hands on, she was going to examine. In this case, it was the seat-back pocket safety card that caught her attention. So while we were waiting for departure, she was examining the card. She would point to a picture and say “what’s that Daddy?” I would explain that the picture she was pointing to described what to do in this kind of emergency or that kind of emergency. By the time we’d taxied out for take off, she had covered all the potential emergencies and put the card back in the pocket.

Takeoff was uneventful and we’d settled in for the hour flight. My daughter’s attention was mostly focused on two mylar helium balloons that the passengers behind us had on the end of strings. The balloons were floating over the top of our seats, delighting my daughter. Shortly after we reached cruising altitude, and quite suddenly, both balloons popped with loud bangs in rapid succession, maybe 5 seconds apart. My daughter was startled and I thought to myself: “that’s strange.” But before I had a chance to think on this further, the plane rotated nose down and began what was by far the steepest descent I’d ever experienced. We were descending so fast that my stomach was in my throat – and I thought the plane might be crashing! I spoke to my daughter, reassuring her that everything was all right, but I was trying to convince myself as much as her. I’d just about succeeded at both, when the oxygen masks popped out of the ceiling panels, destroying that reassuring fantasy. That’s when the fun really began.

There was already a lot of murmuring going on in the cabin that started with the steep descent. When the masks came down, there was, not exactly screaming, but everyone let out an exclamation at once, so there was quite a concerned din in the cabin. At this point, my daughter started yelling at the top of her lungs: “I don’t WANT an Emergency! I don’t WANT an Emergency!” I already had my mask on and was trying to put on hers, but she kept pushing it off with her hand, while screaming for about the 10th time how she did not WANT an emergency. I kept telling her in my mask-muffled voice: “I know sweetie, neither do I, but you HAVE to put your mask on. Finally, I had to resort to just holding her arms so she could not take off the mask.

After a few moments the plane leveled off and everyone was relieved. The FA came on the PA and told us we could take off our masks. She didn’t know what had happened, but she told us she would let us know as soon as she could find out. After 10 minutes or so, she came back on the PA to tell us that we had had a loss of cabin pressure (duh) and that the pilot had taken us down to 10,000 feet as was the normal procedure in this case. She assured us that the plane was flying OK, and that since we were more than halfway to our destination, it had been decided that we would just continue on to SJC. So we spent the rest of the flight, with the oxygen masks hanging down in front of us, but landed shortly thereafter at SJC.

The pilot never said a word, even after we landed, so we never found out exactly what had occurred, and the cockpit door was closed as we deplaned. So we all got off the plane like nothing had ever happened. There was no agent at the gate or anything. So we, the passengers kind of milled around the gate for a few moments, kind of hoping for some kind of explanation, or apology, or SOMETHING (maybe everyone was just still shaken up and just wanted to be with the people who had the same experience), but it was as if it never happened, so eventually everyone wandered away to collect their luggage or whatever.

At this point, my daughter demanded to know why she did not get to go down the slide – and dug in her heels. She did not want to leave the gate until she got her slide-ride! After all, the pictures of all the ‘emergencies’ ended with people going down the slides. She’d survived one, and she damned well wanted her ride on the slide!

…..and no, the bags on the oxygen masks did not inflate 😉


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Chiquita Chick August 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Your daughter had a mind of her own, didn't she Demotage?

Great story!


Jodi August 25, 2009 at 3:59 am

OMG what a cute little girl! I love that she’s feisty. I am glad the emergency ended up being nothing big.


Winona August 25, 2009 at 6:04 am

Glad the emergency wasn't anything too bad. I can't stop laughing, though – I have a daughter exactly that age, and I can imagine her doing the exact same thing in that situation!!


Julicans August 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I call BS on this story. Any gate agent knows that you can't bring an inflated item especially one with helium on board an A/C. Reasons being:

1. they will blow up under pressure

2. helium is flamable there for a haz/mat and not alowed on board.


bakagamer918 September 22, 2014 at 5:27 am

I'm sorry, but I'm calling horse shit on helium being flammable. Helium is a noble gas and stable. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is very flammable. Planes are pressurized to about 8000 feet (approximately) which shouldn't be enough for a balloon to burst.


saw August 26, 2009 at 3:27 am

Julicans… If the plane was as described (AAs buyout of AirCal) this would be 1986 or 87 ish… and things weren't as tight then as they are now. I'm not surprised that the balloons got on the plane.

The behavior of the child was also (imho) completely believable – and you kind of have to know kids to understand how they think, and that's how they do 🙂

Glad the flight ended safely, and thanks for a rather well written story.


matt August 26, 2009 at 7:39 am

Julicans, helium is most certainly NOT flammable. Hydrogen is (please see "Hindenberg").

I have seen helium balloons on airplanes before, just don't ask me when, b/c I can't for the life of me remember.


julicans August 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

Sorry my mistake about being flamable.


anon August 26, 2009 at 8:35 am

Your daughter sounds like fun. I wish she could have had a ride down the slide! She earned it, darn it!


saw August 26, 2009 at 11:52 am

Most of the time now, when I see balloons on a plane, they end up stuffed in the overhead. Attendants don't like them floating in the aisles.


Demotage August 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Julicans – happened just as I described it.

SAW – Yup – my daughter is now 24, so it was proly '88 that this happened.

….the coda to the story, which I forgot to include is that I resolved the slide ride problem by reminding her that the 'oxygen mask emergency' on the card was one of the ones that didn't end in a slide ride.


Charlie October 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

None of us WANT an emergency, but we sure like the slide!


life can suck, live February 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm

I think of a cousin i had. Unable to express feeling .


Tony July 2, 2010 at 3:05 am

I call BS. I think you,your daughter and all the other pax would have had terrible ear pain!. Like your other story(landing gear causes consternation) a good read but pure fiction.


Demotage July 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Believe it or not. That is just what happened.


Shamu August 28, 2011 at 2:44 am

Two sad sacks wrecking a good story about a smart kid. It seems real enough to me.


Andrea September 4, 2012 at 9:15 pm

What a cute kid!


Bebe June 26, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Is your daughter still feisty and strong minded?! I hope so!!


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