Things You Learn During An Airplane Emergency

After years of extensive flying around the world, I finally found myself in an in-flight emergency. Up until that point, it was one of my biggest fears. It isn’t anymore. We landed safely. Here’s some things you learn during an inflight emergency: 1. Most people are remarkably calm. I had been a nervous flyer up until the endangered flight, and even I found myself somewhat relaxed when it finally happened. The plane was circling to dump fuel (which lessens the potential fire on the ground), and the long lazy circles somehow seemed pleasant. Looking around the plane, I saw mostly calm faces. Even smiles. Somehow your biggest fear can end up being more bearable than you thought. 2. You make fast friends. Everyone is experiencing one of the most intense times of their life, and everyone wants to talk about it. Social walls break down pretty quick, and communication opens up. It suddenly seems like you have known the person in seat 7A forever. In my case, the guy sitting next to me became my best friend. We even managed to make jokes as we were descending, not knowing how we were going to land. 3. The flight attendants are well trained. Those folks really know what to do in emergency situations. They do plenty to calm down the folks on the flight, even though they have to be really worried, too. Their demeanor sets the tone. Body language and voice inflection are interpreted each second by all of the passengers. In our case, the flight attendants even went around and very quickly handed out every ounce of available alcohol on the plane. I’m not sure that is really encouraged by the airlines, but God bless them for doing that. Free alcohol should be standard practice for any in-flight emergency. I didn’t drink mine. I still have the mini Jack Daniels as a souvenir. 4. It’s hard to see the problem. In our case, the captain asked the flight attendants look out the windows and report back status. It was broad daylight, but the small windows which just look in one direction make it tough to see anything. Some newer aircraft have tail mounted cameras, for example, that help the pilot see what’s going on. Without external cameras, it’s like trying to see the back of your own head. 5. People get right back on the horse. I thought the experience would have scared some passengers (including me) away from airplanes for a while. This was not the case. I saw lots of familiar faces on the later flight. Maybe the realization of the fear made it really easy to get back on the horse. 6. There’s probably no payoff from the airline. In our case, there was no offer of a free flight or other compensation for the encounter. It was treated just like a late flight. As we got to the terminal, the airlines gave us $5 vouchers to use for food in the terminal. Most passengers used it to buy a celebratory drink before boarding their next adventure.

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