Anyone here been in an airline "incident"?

Has anyone here ever been on a commercial flight when something went wrong? Will you tell me about it? I’m trying to overcome a fear of flying, and I think it might help. Of course, there might be dozens of former or potential Dopers who died when their planes fell apart and plummeted out of the sky, but… I’ll settle for hearing from those of you who survived.

I have another question, too. Yesterday I took a flight from London to Chicago on British Airways, and they had those little individual screens with one channel that shows where the plane is on the map, the speed, outside temperature, etc. The plane descended a little from its cruising altitude of 38K feet and then had to circle in a holding pattern before approaching the airport. During this circle, the altitude kept jumping between 32K and 20K feet. Needless to say, it sort of freaked me out. What was going on, and did it matter?

I was once on an airplane which abruptly decended into an airport other than the one which we had intended to land at. This was due to carbuerator trouble–those on board who know what to listen for knew we were going to land before we started circling the airport while our flight attendents rushed around collecting food/trash etc. The worst part of having an “incident” was that we ended up staying in Francistown, Botswana overnight. This was due to a combination of events which made it impossible to get another suitable airplane in place before dark. Neither the food, nor the accommodations were up to our usually high standards, but what really got on people’s nerves was boredom, since we were supposed to be viewing wild animals, not stuck in a place where nothing was happening. People were also cranky the next day when we were directed to be ready to go at the crack of dawn, but we made our way to the airport and found out that our plane hadn’t landed yet due to lack of visibility. Finally, it landed, was loaded with luggage, and we hopped on board, ready to continue our travels. All was well until the next day, when our airplane landed and burst a tire on the runway(we were not onboard). We ended up traveling by land and by “sea” to our next destination. But you didn’t ask for interesting experiences with border crossings, so I won’t tell that story.

While the details of my experience are much different than what other people might experience (most people do not travel through Southern Africa and do not have the problems with exchanging currency that we experienced), problems with airplanes that result in inconvenience but limited risk of injury are much more common than the other way around.

I was on a plane landing somewhere (I can’t remember which city) and we had to take off again because the plane ahead of us didn’t clear the runway in time. One minute we’re landing the next we’re shooting back up into the sky at a really steep angle.

I have been in a 747 that experienced engine failure mid-flight. Frankly I would not have noticed, as it was only one of the 4 engines.

It took us longer to arrive, the crew were tense and we were laid up for 28 hours while the airline flew in another engine. I ordered off the room service menu rather than use the weak buffet vouchers we were given. Also there were a number of deep baths.

As to your changing altimeter, it was probably just a bug in the instrument display for passengers.

OTOH, I have first hand experience in dozens of aviation incidents, but not as a passenger.

Twice coming into LAX the 737 I was on hit some wake turblence, and aborted the landing. It sounds more dramatic than it was, we were on approach and all of a sudden it felt like we hit a pothole or two. Engines spool up and all of a sudden it feels like a take off again. Captain comes on the intercom and explains the problem. We go around and land on the 2nd attempt.
Once in Seattle I was on a 737 that aborted it takeoff roll. We were at the end of the runway, power comes on, we accelerate. At about 35MPH the engines spool back down. My head comes out of my book, and I start looking around. Nobody else is looking up, WTF? Anyway, the captain take the first taxiway off the main runway (that got peoples attention) and then came on the intercom and explained that they got a warning light as they started their take off roll. They blamed it on the previous crew. Nice pre-flight there Sparky.
I was on a 767 that blew a tire on landing. Didn’t even notice it until the FA came on and mentioned it.
14 years 600,000+ miles and that’s all I got.

My grandfather was in a plane that did a belly landing once. He said other than the noise and the plane tilting over when it came to a stop, it was like any other landing. The pilot kept it dead straight down the runway.

I have a few, not from me but from people that fly constantly -

One guy was onboard when they had to make an emergency landing due to appendicitis (the co-pilot). They had to dump all the fuel (it was supposed to be an overseas flight). What is interesting is that the fuel comes out vapourized, so it looks liek the wing is smoking. It’s not.

Another guy I know was flying into the middle east when Saddam attacked (don’t know if it was in response to the US, or the actual invasion of Kuwait). Suddenly bombs are exploding in the air and everyone had to assume the crash position. He said it wa the only time he was every terrified, the flight attendants went down the aisles, smacking the backs of passengers heads to make sure they were down. The plane banked an extremely steep turn and landed at a different airport. They all kissed the ground as they exited.

My FIL was on a plane that had landing gear trouble. They landed and got to jump out on the slide.

On a flight from LAX to JFK, the L1011 we were on blew out over half its tires on landing. We were surrounded by firetrucks way out on the taxiway for about an hour, then stairs were brought out and we were bused to the terminal.
We hadn’t know we had been on fire during that hour. :eek: We were told on the bus.

My last flight from New Zealand to LA was actually 3 flights. There was some kind of electrical problem on the first flight about an hour into the trip. They had to dump all the fuel, and we returned to NZ about 3 hours after takeoff. They bussed us to various hotels at 1AM, and rescheduled the flight for the next day at 10:30AM.

The 10:30 take-off was delayed for about 90 minutes, and then, about an hour into THAT flight, there was another problem (this is on the same plane as the original flight) Once again, we had to dump all the fuel before returning to Auckland.

They ushered us all in to the VIP lounge, and tried to keep us happy with free food and drink until the next scheduled departure, where there was room enough for the majority of us. I never had a sense of being in danger during those first 2 flights, but I was extremely tired and cranky when I eventually got in to LA more than 24 hours late.

Nothing too dramatic, but on a flight into Philadelphia last year, we hit so much turbulence that the flight attendants were telling people to put everything away. Books, newspapers, everything had to go into the seat pockets. That scared me a little. Well, that and the fact that my stomach kept dropping out of me with every shift of the plane. It only lasted about ten minutes, though, and the landing was fine.

This one didn’t happen to me, but to a good friend of mine. According to her, all the passengers were boarded, and the plane was preparing to depart. Apparently, a baggage truck – or food truck or something – one of the ground vehicles involved in the preparation for departure – RAN into the airplane…

(“But officer, it was in my blind spot!”)

…and busted or damaged a fuel line, so that fuel was leaking now from the plane.

They had to evacuate everybody from the plane, and there was a good delay getting everybody eventually moved to another one, departing much later.

I was supposed to be on TWA Flight 800. At the last minute, my grandma loaned me the money to take an earlier flight, so I changed my reservation to TWA Flight 801 which left two weeks earlier. I still feel sick when I think about it, and I’ve had some weird guilt thinking that someone else may have taken my seat when I switched flights.

Before that, I had flown since I was a child without a speck of nervousness. (I was actually rather blase about it.) For ten years now, since 800 dissintegrated over the Atlantic, I haven’t been able to fly without horrible anxiety. I start shaking and crying even before we arrive at the airport.

I only fly as a last resort. What I do now is see my doctor for a temporary prescription before each flight. She gives me a sedative which I take before we get to the airport. Usually, I’m high as a kite and incredibly sleepy before we even get onto the plane, and most of the time, I’m asleep even before the safety demonstration is done.

Maybe I need to get me some of that.

This thread strikes me as a spectacularly bad idea, if your goal is to assuage your fear of flying. But since it’s here…

My mom used to hate flying, but her job requires it so often that she’s largely gotten over it. There was a period about three-four years back where she had to fly between San Francisco and LA almost once a week. In all those flights, she’s only ever had one bad experience: they were coming in for a landing when all of a sudden the plane went sideways and veered away from the runway. The pilot got on the PA and explained that a private plane had flown “where they weren’t supposed to be,” and they had to abort the landing, circle around, and try again. No one was hurt, and the plane was undamaged.

I was on a flight with my wife, landing at Midway in Chicago. Apparently, it’s a windy city. When we were touching down, the wind was very strong: we bounced the left landing gear, then the right, then the wind blew the plane (something 727-ish) sideways completely off the runway. The pilot gunned the engines and I swear I sank back into my seat from the thrust. Anyway, the pilot announced that he’ll do a U-turn and try again. I kid you not, not a single person in the cabin was making noise, even the babies stopped crying. The relief and applause when we landed safely was incredible.

On another flight across the Pacific (again in something 727-ish) one of the three engines apparently caught on fire, and the loss of pressure (or something) brought another engine to 1/2 thrust. So the pilot took took the plane to the highest altitude he could in order to extinguish the fire, then we flew so close to the water you could count the scales on the sharks waiting for us below. (Kidding about the sharks - they don’t have visible scales.) Normally a 5-hour flight, it took us 8 1/2 hours to reach our destination. I was growing my first beard at the time, and by the time we landed I had nervously plucked all the hair from a spot on my jaw.

Lastly, I wanted to mention one that I was not involved in - the Gimli Glider event - where a 767 instrumentation failure left the plane at cruising altitude with no fuel. Not only did the crew bring the plane down safely, but they did so onto a crowded runway being used for car races. The plane was in sufficiently good condition that it was later flown from there to a proper airstrip.

In each case, I have nothing but admiration for the flight crews and the engineers who built the planes. If their professions weren’t held to such a high degree of precision and discipline, the outcomes would have likely been worse.

I’m afraid to fly, but I’ll get on a plane again because I am confident the air and ground crews know their business.

When I way flying with my bandmates (Ray Price orchestra, about 20 of us) we encountered strong winds over Arizona. (Going to the LBJ ranch in Texas from LA) We were in an Electra, thats about all I recall about the airplane, and the pilot let us know we might have to land early to refuel. Most of us were pretty happy at the time (Chevas Regal) and didn’t pay much attention. Then the plane started buffeiting. Soon after pilot then said we had about 15 min. of fuel and we we were going to have to land soon or land in the desert. We started to pay attention then!
Fortunately, the pilot had found a small airport that would handle the airplane and we landed safely. Rough but safely.
When we deplaned while the airplane was refueing we all hugged the pilots and gave them congrats. Of course they were as happy as us!

I know this isn’t what you’re talking about but when I was young and extremely stupid:

I was on a plane with me and some of my buddies. We had all been drinking heavily before we boarded. So we’re all sitting in the back of the plane (on our way to Vegas) just laughing and carrying on.

Apparently we were being a little too loud because the stewardess came back to tell us in a very nice way : “I’m glad you guys are enjoying flying with us today but I’m affraid I’m going to have to ask you guys to quiet down just a little bit.”

To which I geniusly remarked: “Oh, what are ya going to do? Throw us off the plane?” (My group of merry men all laughed in unison at my charming wit.)

About two seconds after that the captian came back there and gave us what for. I about shit my pants.

Well. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any responses. Heh.

I picture everyone looking out the windows and searching the ground. There’s a spot. We found a runway. Never mind there’s a sub-compact on it. You can never see them, until you go to land. I hate sub-compacts.

I doubt I’ll ever fly in a plane. My brother’s first flight was to Florida to hook up on a cruise. He got married on the ship in port. The trip down was in a medium sized jet, really jets. They couldn’t take off because a door latch wouldn’t lock in place. After an hour a maintenance guy has put a plastic pull tie on the handle to keep it in place. They take off and the tie breaks during the flight. The latch is moving around, and the jet makes an emergency landing. They get on a different jet and the aircraft is vibrating. The engine has problems and gets shut off and they make another emergency landing. They get on the third jet and make it to Florida. My brother is wondering if he can ride the jet back home or not, because he’s a bundle of nerves at that point.

Commercial flights:

I once was taking a couple of flights from NJ to AZ, and had one leg that ran me throught Pittsburgh. We ended up coming through a thunderstorm, and landing in the midst of the hairiest landing of my life. There was probably nothing to worry about, but the rain was just pouring down, and I kinda got freaked out. We ended up slamming onto the runway (but I assume for traction on the tires), an’ that’s about the worst of it.

Military flights:

I once was on a flight out of Balad AB, Iraq, climbing high and fast on a C-130, and I heard a distinct “plunk” just overhead–but noticed no damage or anything Just a slight inward dent in the panel. I later asked the loadmaster what it was, and he said “Oh, it was probably gunfire. . .”

Then, there was another time out of Bagram AB, Afghanistan where I was on a Blackhawk flight, and we saw some “Taliban lightsticks” that wanted to engage us. So, I laid onto the '240 outside of the cabin, and put those lightsticks out of their misery.

Long story short: I’ve learned there ain’t much you’re gonna do screaming in at 600 knots at 30k feet. Better’n most just to shut up, grab on, and enjoy the ride.

Commercial flights are waaaaaaaay much safer than military ones.