Monday, March 23, 2015

Up in the Air

On the last Phoenix  flight out of Burbank Friday, I was across from a lady who commutes to work from Phoenix and flys home on this same flight every week end.  She told me she has been on this schedule for 6 years.  I remarked that I was pushing 3million miles on my American Airlines Advantage account and we breifly shared a "we fly too much" moment. 
As we made the taxi from the gate the pilot gunned the engine. Before we moved very far he pulled back on the throttle and we went to the airplane equivelent of idle.  He did this three or four more times and then we taxied back into the gate. Captain said he was getting a warning light and they would need maintanence to check it out.  Turned out to be a nearly three hour delay.  It was a "restrainer"- something to do with the engine.  
The man sitting in the window seat the other side of the lady commuter became increasingly agitated.  He finally demanded he be let off the plane, claiming he would drive to Pheonix. To be honest we were glad that his "negative attitude" had left the area.  After he was gone the lady said she has made that drive several times and on a Friday afternoon he was looking at a 9 hour trip.
Soon the pilot said that we were a "green plane" meaning we were free to leave. We settled in and began to taxi.  We got further from the gate this time but the pilot raced the engines and pulled back several times like before.  I was concerned that the problem had not really been fixed and we would be heading back to the gate. But the final time he raced the engines we were on our way. 
Climbing out of the Burbank airport is a really steep flight path.  Because there is so much residential area in the  path they try to get as high as they can as fast as they can for noise abatement.  We began to climb steeply. The engines kept accelerating faster and louder straining to make this Burbank climb. 
Suddenly we are in a state of weighlessness that lasted several seconds. Long enough for me to lock eyes with the lady commuter who was now alone in her row.  We both shared a moment of realization that this was not normal.  
Adding to the fear of the moment.  I heard no engine noise.  It was quiet, going from a high RPM roar to silence except for the screams and gasps from nearly everyone on the plane.  The wings banked and I thought we were either going down or back to the airport. A story flashed in my head: The problem had indeed not been fixed and we were in trouble.  
I hear the engines come back on begining to strian again, thankfully, but we are still losing attitude.  I see the hills surrounding Burbank from my window and the thought of a German co-pilot slamming into the French Alps crosses my mind. (At baggage claim later several of the passengers admitted they had the same thoughts for those moments) 
The engines come back on and race faster and faster as we begin to climb.  From that moment on it seemed like a normal flight that was just delayed three hours. The flight attendant was sitting close enough to us to engage in conversation. The commuter lady said, "What the hell was that?"  The Flight attendant said, "Oh just an invisible air pocket."
The commmuter said, "I have experienced air pockets before and they are nothing like that was." I chimed in and agreed.  The lady said, " I have never experienced anything like that before." The attendant said, "Oh, I have." I got a sympathy laugh of relief from those around us when I said, "That does not make me feel better." 
There was no explanation from the pilot.  No mention was made of it, only an appology that the flight had been delayed for hours when we landed.
It will not be on the news. It will never be reported outside of the Airline home office and I am sure I will never know the real reason for one of the scariest moments in my flying experience.
A young lady approched me at baggage claim.  She occupied the seat in front of me.  She asked if she could film a video of me telling her husband it was as bad as she would claim when she got home.  She said, "He will think that I am either making it up or just a woosie flier." In the breif video I touted my 3 million mile status and said it was the worst thing I had ever been through. I was not exaggerating. 
At a time when major airline accidents have filled the front page of newpapers, a moment like this takes on greater significance. Glad to be in Phoenix today. 
On a happier note:  The Burbank TSA could not have been nicer to me and I was allowed to go through the TSA Pre-screened line.  
As you were,


Mary Watts said...

Jay, as a friend I ask: If you had died in a plane crash

Mary Watts said...

Jay, as your friend, if you had died in a plane crash yesterday, do you know where you would be spending the rest of eternity? and why?

Anonymous said...

So glad everyone is safe and sound and so sorry you had to experience that. I fly in and out of Burbank all the time on Southwest. It is disconcerting to learn about this and I truly hope this NEVER happens again.


I take your question in the spirit it was asked as a friend, however, it is a very personal and presumptive question. I will try to identify what your are actually asking me.
If I died today would I KNOW where I would spend eternity? NO and I suggest that neither do you, know. You can tell me what you believe but you speak with the assumption of faith and belief. I am not knocking faith or belief... but to know is not within the reach of any human.
If you are asking do I believe in a Heaven made of gold streets and winged beings no. If you are asking me if God is absolute Love and Life, Truth, Principle, Mind, Spirit Soul and Intelligence, and as spititual beings we are individual expressions of that eternal Consciousness - I believe I will dwell there. In fact I believe that is where I actually dwell now. Notice I also use the word believe- as humans we can not truly know.
Tell me what Truth looks like. Tell me the geography of Love, Tell me where eternal Mind would choose to dwell. Describe the physical characteristics of Spirit and Soul and I will show you what heaven is.
If you are asking do I believe in a God who requires me to celebrate the execution of his only son as a condition to forgive my failings in order to love me... I do not believe in that God.
A God of Omnipotence and Omnipotence would realize that a heathen sacrifice of any other life form, particularly human, does not save me from my transgressions. I will be punished for my own sins not by God but by the standards of Principle which are contrary to the best way of living.
Most people believe in a God of Supreme Intelligence and then proceed treat him like he was a ignorant pagan requiring all sorts of ritual practice for his favor. So do I know how much time I have left or where I am actually going to be after that? No. Do I try to think and live in a way that I will be ready for tha journey when the time comes. Yes.
All the Best to you,

Roy said...

Jay--wonderful response. Don't I remember you from Duke Divinity School...that class we had on eschatology, soteriology, practical theology, and how flip an omelet. I am sure you were in this class.

Dave Robison said...

I read the airline story with great interest and empathetic fear. But, I think your response on your eternal well being, should have been the blog entry. Once again, great writing, great opinion.

And so it is.