Do NOT read this if you are afraid of flying
Friday December 14th 2007, 12:24 am
Filed under: Life

I warned you. Okay, here goes.

Tonight we flew home from Salt Lake, and I have all these things to say about an absolutely wonderful trip and wonderful people and how glad I am that we got to go. I’ll get to it. But I have to get this out of my system first.

We were flying over the San Francisco Bay on our way towards landing tonight. Looking out the window, I saw flashing lights in the dark–in the middle of the Bay? Red. White. That made no sense. I was trying to remember, from all the times we’ve driven those two bridges we were flying past, what those could possibly be–except, we didn’t go past them. They kept being simply there. Weird. They got a little closer and a little clearer, a ghost and a shadow at first and then clearly and plain to see right there, a SECOND JET flying directly alongside us and underneath–we were seconds from impact. If not before landing, then we were going to land right on top of them. We were going to the same runway at the same time. Just at the point that I thought emphatically, God, You have to do something because this isn’t going to work, our pilot rammed our plane straight up and out of the way. My stars. I don’t know where air traffic control was, but I can tell you emphatically that it was not at our airport looking in our direction, that’s for sure.

Watching the airport passing below us was both a comfort and a now-what-are-we-going-to-do. We circled out over the ocean–with the pilot, I am sure, going, I hope you’re watching me THIS time, dudes!, and me wishing I had paid the least bit of attention to the over-water emergency instructions–and we headed back over the mountains, then the Bay, and gradually in for a landing again. I’m sure my eyes weren’t the only ones on my side of the plane absolutely glued to the windows. The Bay was mercifully clear and black as night the way it was meant to be this time. I’m also sure the people on the other side of the aisle had utterly no idea. The woman sitting directly behind me and I exclaimed over that other plane as we were getting up out of our seats at the end.

Sometimes, when you fly, the captain will greet the disembarking passengers with a ‘have a nice day,’ or a, ‘thank you for flying our airline.’ That seems to happen a whole lot less often than it used to, in these high-security days, at least in my experience. But our captain opened his door as soon as the first moment to do so presented itself, sprang out, and grimly nodded at each person getting off, greeting them without a trace of a smile, though his pleasantries showed that he was trying to for our sakes.

I was thinking that he looked about to give someone a huge piece of his angry mind, and richly deserved–but it suddenly struck me that he seemed to need someone else to know what we’d all just gone through. How close it had been. Not to be a bunch of oblivious travellers. And he needed to see the actual people he’d just gone through this for, for us to have faces. He needed someone to know what he’d done for us, some way of relieving the pressure of his emotions by giving some degree of voice to them before he exploded to the guilty entities.

I wanted to say “Thank you for saving our lives”: I am one who believes in directly acknowledging the heart of the matter. It’s part of who I am. Still, that seemed a little more than I quite thought I could say…but…

With the amount and weight of our overhead carry-ons, we waited for a break in the passengers, and there was suddenly a long one, so I had a moment to speak without getting in anyone’s way. I said as I got up to the captain, “That first approach was a little freaky with that other plane there–thank you.”

He looked me in the eye, hesitated, and simply quietly wished me a happy holiday in response. I looked straight back at him, and answered, “Thank you for making it so we’ll have one!”

The moment he and I both needed. It had been acknowledged. He knew I knew. He had done his job well when others had not, and he had delivered us to the ground safely. He is a hero. I do not know his name, but I will never forget him. To the pilot of Jetblue Flight 291, THANK YOU.

19 Comments so far
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Whew! I’m so glad for you. And well done for saying something to the pilot – it must have helped so much for someone else at the scene to realise exactly what he had to do to keep everyone safe.

Comment by Freyalyn 12.14.07 @ 2:38 am

I don’t like flying, but since I don’t do a whole lot of it (and won’t be flying anytime soon), I felt it was safe to go ahead and read. I’m so glad you’re safe and sound (if a bit shaken) and I’m so glad you had a pilot who was paying attention!

Comment by Alison 12.14.07 @ 5:44 am

Wondered why I kept wondering if you had arrived home safely! So very glad you did! Also glad you said something to the pilot, he needed it. Stay safe.

Comment by Vicki 12.14.07 @ 5:45 am

WOW! Will be awhile before Hubby and I fly again, thank goodness,. Welcome home and I am so glad your Pilot had the good sense and skills to make sure you all made it back safe and in one piece!

Comment by Danielle from SW Missouri 12.14.07 @ 6:57 am

Blessed be! I am glad you acknowledged the moment with him.
My dad was a private pilot for years, and even ran his own small airport. Flying really IS safer than driving, but men like your pilot help make it that way!

Comment by Diana Troldahl 12.14.07 @ 8:33 am

Oy, how scary! Did I ever tell you about when we flew into Vegas last spring and there was a lightning storm RIGHT AROUND US OUT OF NOWHERE? I’m so glad you’re okay, and that the pilot was there when he needed to be.

And, for reference, still pregnant. >.

Comment by kristine 12.14.07 @ 9:08 am

You were so right to say something to him in your usual constructive way! He needed your comments to make it easier for him to sleep last night. So glad you’re safe!

Comment by Nancy Weber 12.14.07 @ 11:16 am

I’ve had that happen before–not during landing but while we were in the air. Close enough to see the other plane’s travellers through the windows. Scary. Landing’s worse, I think.

If a pilot’s done a great job, I always tell him (never had a woman pilot–wonder why that is). My favorite was in and out of Guatamala City with a former Air Force bomber pilot. He cranked that thing around down into the mountain valley like we were in a bomber, not a passenger plane. Very, very fun. 🙂

Comment by Carina 12.14.07 @ 11:41 am

I fly a lot — and despite all the crazy conditions involved in flying, I always feel safer from a crash in a plane than a car. The pilots overall are a pretty trustworthy lot and I just give myself up to their abilities…through hurricanes and snow storms, among other things. Your story is just one more reason to trust those careful pilots! (Now, I wish I could just avoid the germs I pick up in transit…)

Comment by Joanne 12.14.07 @ 11:55 am

I’m so glad you got home safely. You had a good, watchful pilot, and I’m sure you had a certain missionary praying for you as well.

Comment by Laura 12.14.07 @ 12:22 pm

Thank the Lord! Good for all of you!

Comment by Toni 12.14.07 @ 4:20 pm

Oh, you gave me goosebumps! I think we have close calls more often than we know – and that one sure was close. Congrats for listening to your intuition about talking to the pilot. He must have been shaken too!


Comment by Bev 12.14.07 @ 6:51 pm

Wow. My heart’s pounding just reading that.

Comment by no-blog-rachel 12.14.07 @ 8:39 pm

Oh, I so wish I hadn’t read this lol. We are flying out on Sunday for a vacation. Yikes how scary! Glad it turned out well for you.

Comment by Lisa 12.14.07 @ 8:45 pm

Angels Surround you Dear Alison…and rightly So!
I am glad to know that he was…there!!

Comment by Sheila E 12.15.07 @ 6:09 am

What an experience!
Once again, you have shown us how the rest of the world should treat each other.

Comment by Sonya 12.15.07 @ 9:58 am

Totally and completely amazing. Yes, thank you, pilot!

Comment by Amanda 12.16.07 @ 10:10 am

Oh my goodness.
I am glad you got back safe.
(I once had an opportunity to thank a pilot likewise. He steered us through a rough storm with velvet gloves. Smooth as anything.)

Comment by Karin 12.17.07 @ 11:53 am

Wheeee! Scary stuff. So glad he was on the ball, even if the controllers weren’t.

Comment by Lene 12.18.07 @ 9:33 pm

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