I thought I would mark my return to the forum with a short story of my very nearly dying on the flight home from university on Saturday. So, I am in Detroit, waiting out my three hour layover, when they announce my connection flight is overbooked and that they are requesting volunteers to take an alternate flight a few hours later. They offer a travel voucher for my troubles, and since I have done this before, and am in no particular hurry to get home, I volunteer. The desk attendant books me for both flights and asks that I not board the plan until the last possible minute so they can determine if it is necessary. I do so, and thankfully they are able to board everyone in coach. I originally bought a business class ticket as I was trying to save money for other things this summer, but as I had volunteered, they compensated me with a seat adjustment to first class. This series of events will be revealed as having been very easily ironic in a few moments. The plane is now at full capacity and we are ready to push-off as we were already 15 minutes late at that point. But, it was not to be. We sat at the gate for about 20 minutes before the pilot came over the intercom to inform us they were having maintenance problems—I had heard this before so I thought nothing of it. Another 30 minutes goes by and the pilot finally announces that we will be leaving the gate. We lift-off with no incident and fly south into the still sunny sky. The flight was rather uneventful, until we reached the airport. I was sitting in the right side window seat and could see our descent clearly as we began to land. But, at the last moment, the pilot pulled the nose up and we ascended back to a circling pattern. About 15 minutes later the pilot addressed the cabin once again saying they were having maintenance problems. We circled the airport for another 45 minutes, before he finally declared we would be landing. The landing was one of the roughest I have ever experienced, with heavy lateral motion and wind resistance (and I have flown quite a bit). Once we were on the ground, instead of slowing to a taxi speed and making our way to the gate, we stopped dead on the runway. As I stared out the right side of the plane I saw an airport emergency fire vehicle drive by. Without even thinking, I looked back across the cabin to the gentlemen I had carried on a conversation with earlier and asked how many emergency vehicles there were on his side. Without missing a bit he calmly raised his middle and index fingers and mouthed the word “two.” In that moment there was an odd silence on the plane—something I had never experienced before—broken almost all at once by the sound of people's voices on their cell phones. Later, as all of us stood around the baggage claim carousel, several people that were seated in the exit rows said that just before we landed they were approached by the flight attendants and asked if they knew how to open the exit hatches. From their accounts, the attendants were very nervous. I later found out that the front landing gear had not come down during the first landing attempt and they had quite a bit of trouble getting it down while we were in flight. Once down, they were afraid the bracing system would not work while landing and thus the force of the touch-down would cause it to collapse and we would have a crash landing. The circling pattern was meant to burn off most of the fuel before we made the attempt. Suffice to say, my family and I went for a very nice dinner that night. It ranks among the most surreal experiences of my life. At any rate, I am glad to be back. How is everyone doing; anything interesting happen during my hiatus?
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5/24/06 at 2:15am