If you were to ask me, I would say that the worst part about travelling is the actual travelling part. I hate flying. I hate airports and I mostly dislike planes. But if we want to go anywhere in a reasonably short amount of time, flying is the way to do it, I suppose.
Image credit: Aeroplane!
Of course, that doesn't mean crazy shit can't happen. In fact, it seems like crazy shit happens to you people all the time! It actually makes me feel better because none of my experiences have even come close to being this insane.
Last week, I asked you guys for your most terrible aeroplane stories. I got a few hundred responses -- with many of them involving vomit. Lucky us!
Check out these tales.
Infants Eat Caesar Salad, Right? (posigrade)
Just wait until he's 16 to start travelling again, man.
This was easily the worst trip of my life. The trip was with my wife and then 15-month old son from Boston to Jackson Hole, WY for a vacation with a group of friends in late June. We were supposed to leave Boston on a flight at about 8AM, then catch a connection in Denver to Jackson Hole with plenty of time to make the connection.
We arrived at the airport and thanks to my wife’s travel status, we had access to the United lounge at Logan. Upon arriving there, we learned that the incoming plane for our flight was delayed and we were looking at a 2-3 hour wait. OK, we wouldn’t make Jackon for a late lunch but could catch the next connection and arrive mid-afternoon.
The delay lengthened and we camped in the United lounge. Since my son was just a toddler at the time, we’d packed our carry-ons for with supplies (food, snacks) for what we assumed would be a simple, one-connection trip. As morning turned into afternoon, my wife decided to take our increasingly fidgety son for a walk in the terminal while I stayed with the bags and read a book. After a few minutes I heard some commotion up near the lounge entrance and though it was far away I was pretty sure I heard my wife’s voice screaming “Shut it off! Shut it off!” I lept over seats and sprinted to the entrance where I fould a bunch of people standing around slack jawed, my wife screaming and my son in tears. The doors to this United lounge where glass panels that opened automatically, Star Trek style with the door panel sliding in front of the window wall with about a one inch gap.
In that window was a big model of a United plane which my son saw from the concourse and toddled over to take a look at. He put his hands on the glass to admire it at the same time somebody came through the door. The doors had nosafety mechanism at all and went right over his hand and arm, pinning him to the window. The door then jammed leaving him screaming. People were trying to figure out what to do but I didn’t wait. I grabbed the glass door and pulled it away from the wall and back closed, fighting the motor all the way. With our son free we were hustled into a private seating area in the club and medics were brought in. The examination turned out OK and aside from a small bruise there was no damage. We were kept in the private room and supplied with free drinks until our flight arrived. This would be the high point of the day.
All the while our delay continued to lengthen to the point where catching the mid-afternoon flight was in jeopardy. There was an evening flight as a worst case (so we thought then) scenario but it would mean missing all of our afternoon plans with friends. The flight to DEN was uneventful until about half an hour before our scheduled landing when I noticed a) we weren’t beginning our descent and b) we were banking right every few minutes meaning we were circling. That was confirm after another half hour by the pilot who said there were weather issues in DEN and we were holding. The afternoon connection option slipped by and we were looking at an evening flight. So we though. Now it gets worse.
After another while the pilot comes on and says they can’t circle anymore and we are being diverted to Lincoln, Nebraska because the weather is still a problem in Denver. The hope is to not be there very long, but upon arriving we’re told that the crew is past it’s duty limit and United will need to get a new crew to continue the flight. The problem is, Lincoln is a relatively small regional airport which doesn’t have 757 traffic so they need to fly a new crew in from Chicago. We’re going to be stuck for at least a couple of hours. It’s almost 8PM Boston time, we haven’t had a solid meal since breakfast, and they do us the courtesy of mentioning that there is only one restaurant in the airport and it’s about to close. My wife takes charge of the kid and I sprint out of the plane to try to get us some food.
The restaurant is nothing more than a prepared food café and they are already cleaned out. The only option I can get that we can feed my son (we are well out of snacks at this point) is a chicken Caesar salad where we were able to pick out the chicken and scrape off the dressing for my son. By the time my wife got to the café the line was down the concourse. Again, Lincoln doesn’t get 757s so they don’t normally see that many people at once. Fortunately I had been one of the first in line so I was one of the few who was able to get anything.
People sat anywhere they could and waited. The 1-2 hour estimated wait turned into 3 ½ hours when the new crew arrived to thunderous applause. We’d be on our way shortly but there was one catch. The fact that we were on a 757 meant that for some reason the boarding systems at Lincoln couldn’t handle a plane that size, so even though we were just getting back onto the plane we had been on, where most of our belongings still were, we were going to have to be boarded by hand using an alphabetical paper manifest and showing our IDs. Reboarding took almost an hour and twenty minutes.
We finally departed for the short hop to DEN. We were apologized to profusely by the crew for our day and told we’d be met at the gate by staff who would get us lodging for the night, and we’d be rebooked on connections for the next day. We were arriving at about 12:30AM local time so about 2:30AM by our body clocks and our poor child hadn’t been able to sleep at all due to the constant commotion. We knew we had to get him to a hotel fast and so it was my turn to stay with him, gather our bags and wait for our gate-checked stroller while my wife tried to get out and make hotel arrangements as quickly as she could. She was one of the first ones off the plane and when I finally got my son and all of our baggage off the jetway, there were no attendants waiting for us.
What I found was my wife staring at a line of people that went past our gate and down the full length of a DIA concourse. There were at least 300 people in line, and it wasn’t moving at all. If you know Denver, you know there aren’t that many hotel rooms close by so there was little chance we’d have a room by the time that line got processed, which would take hours.
The perk of having a spouse who travels is that they have access to good travel services. In this case my wife had a very aggressive corporate travel agent who was able to get us a suite in one of the airport hotels which they said was the only room available. We paid for it ourselves (fully planning on cramming the bill down United’s throat) and managed to get about four hours of sleep before needing to be back at the airport for the morning flight to Jackson. It was not a particularly restful break but it helped.
As we lugged all of our stuff back to the airport early the next morning, we found it littered with dozens and dozens of people trying to find a comfortable place to sleep anywhere they could. We also finally found out what had happened. A massive hail storm had come through the area and over 40 flights had to be diverted. The woman at the counter checking us in said her car had been dinged up and there were many far worse. We got some large coffees, boarded our flight and settled in.
The flight to Jackson was delayed over an hour due to mechanical issues.
The weather was an uncontrollable element but I can’t let United off the hook for a day of ridiculous missteps in how they handled the situation. I’d like to say that was the end of it but there’s an epilogue to the story that I just don’t have time to write, but it’s equally nuts.
Vomit Train (GoalieLax)
The fish! Bad fish!
This wasn’t bad for me, per se, but it was for a whole lot of people on that plane.
It was spring break 1998. I went with a group of aboput 25 students at the Naval Academy for a 10 day trip to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Prague.
We were taking a night flight from Moscow to Prague, so we all ate dinner together before heading to the airport. It was your typical Russian upperclass meal. I concentrated on the caviar before the meal while others went whole hog on the smoked salmon. I’d guess there were probably only 3 or 4 of us who liked Caviar at that point. So you have 20+ people chowing down on smoked salmon.
Turns out, they choose poorly.
We get in the air a couple hours later and the salmon eaters were all green around the gills. Complaining about stomach cramps. Heading to the head. Whole 9 yards.
Then the first guy threw up. I have flown all over the world since I was a little kid and I had not before then nor have I since then seen anyone use a vomit bag on a plane.
The next thing I know, it’s like the lardass scene from Stand By Me in all the rows around me. Violent vomiting. Lots of it. And those bags turn out to not be as big as you might want. Passengers who we didn’t even know start vomiting. A flight attendant comes to check and bring more bags and they end up vomiting. I’d guess that by the time all was said and done, more than 50 people on that flight probably threw up.
Thankfully, I come from a long line of Newfies who fished the Grand Banks on schooners, so I have a stomach of steel. I happily ate some snack food in my seat while the sounds of misery filled in around.
Thank You, US Airways (SmugAardvark)
Actually, this turned out quite well.
In all my years of flying around the continent, I’ve been quite fortunate. Other than encountering some fairly rough turbulence, a couple of bumpy landings, and a few angry drunks...I’ve never had any major problems. So instead, I’ll share a story that was unique to me, but doesn’t constitute horrific at all.
I flew up to Syracuse in January to visit a friend of mine. No particular reason, just wanted to get away for a couple days. Her furnace had just broken, so it was a cold couple of days. Still, a pretty good time. On the final day though, the city was getting pounded with a blizzard. After a lengthy struggle just getting to the airport, I settled into a chair in the terminal, waiting for my flight to stop being delayed.
They ended up clearing the snow and boarding the aircraft after a 90ish minute delay. A couple extra minutes were spent waiting for the ground crew to finish deicing the wings, then we set off towards Charlotte, NC (where I had to change planes to get back to Orlando.) While coming in to Charlotte (giggity), the crew asked the passengers to please let people trying to make connections get off the plane first. As it turned out, there were four of us trying to catch the same flight back to Orlando, evidenced by us all sprinting together from gate to gate. We arrived just in time to watch the plane being pushed back. Damnit.
So we all made our way over to the US Airways service counter there in the terminal to see about rebooking. The airline folks explained that the next flight to Orlando wouldn’t leave until the morning, and we were going to be stuck in Charlotte for the night. They offered to put us all up in hotel rooms and give us meal vouchers, which honestly is more than they had to do. Three of us took it in stride. None of us had ever met before, but hey, these things happen from time to time.
Getting angry wouldn’t solve anything. But the fourth guy, he simply wasn’t having it. He called the agent all kinds of horrible names, and essentially had a giant temper tantrum. After he finished his tirade, the agent got us all squared away with our hotel. Me and the other two chill guys each got our own rooms at the Hyatt Place, a pretty swank accommodation given the circumstances. Mr. Grumpypants got to stay at the Sleep Inn on Billy Graham Parkway.
Once we got checked in at the hotel, the three of us new amigos decided to get a drink and some food at the hotel bar. Unfortunately, the kitchen had closed. But the bartender said that if we each bought a soda, he would cash out the remainder of our food vouchers. So, with $28.50 each, we ventured out. Much to our chagrin, there was a big, two-story “gentlemen’s club” just down the road. Of course, that amount of money doesn’t last long in such an establishment. But it was still a little reassuring to know that US Airways was footing the bill.
The next day, we all took the shuttle back to the airport, and had an uneventful flight home. Never saw any of the other guys again, but I did write a thank you email to US Airways’ customer service for the free lap dance.
Geesh...this one is for the books. So I decided to go visit some friends in London for a quick 4 day trip and also to go see a concert. Found a dirt cheap ticket on Air India online, from the start I should have known better. Only good thing was it was direct. I had the worst possible seat in history, last row RIGHT next to the toilets. Was it a blessing that I had an aisle seat??? I think you could figure that out.
Anyhow...I am about a 1 Xanax deep about to nod off and they are just about to starting to serve food. For some reason they start with the rear of the plane, which I found odd but didn’t question it. As soon as they put my food down on the tray, whammo we hit turbulence. Legit the food went up in the air and all over the damm place. It was like someone took every curry dish in the world, shook it up in mixer and let it fly in the back of the plane. So, okay I am not mad, stuff happens, I got a little on me, however the kid in front of me was douched in curry!!!!
Poor kid and too make matters worse his little brother took the piece of bread and starting eating off of him. I was cracking up and other people around me where pretty much screaming in sheer terror, I could not find my Iphone fast enough to take a video for the life of me.
All of the sudden we hit turbulence again, now its not kinda funny, pilot gets on mumbles something which I could not make out. After an hour. things kinda start smoothing out. I decide to go the bathroom....NOW..this is where stuff gets interesting. It smells like god awful hell and my nose is a bit chop up from partying the night before like the idiot that I am. I go to reach for the door because it says “vacant” and as soon as I open it I see this lady squatting on top of the toilet. She is mid deuce mind you and looks up, we make eye contact for a split second before she starts yelling at me in what I could assume is Hindi. The memory will always live with me.
Her daughter comes fumbling back and starts yelling at me also. I tried to be cool, apologize and say the door was open I just wanted to use the bathroom, my bad. Mind you the mom is still squatting on top of the toilet, the flight attendant finally comes towards our direction. She and the daughter get into to it, like she owes her cash from a drug deal gone wrong. I am just standing there watching these two go at it, when all of the sudden we hit turbulence again.
The mom (still on the toilet) and her poop comes flying out of bathroom and lands right between the daughter and the flight attendant. The woman must have weighted like 90 lbs at most. At that point, I cut my losses and went back to my seat and held it for another hour. It was by far the oddest flight in the world.
Halleluja! (Bill Griffith)
If flying makes you feel closer to God, then by all means.
For the first 15 years of my career as a Computer Scientist for the FAA, I spent many hours on flights all over the place. I don’t know the number of commercial flights I’ve been on, but, it’s a staggering number, and none even close to as bad as what occurred on a personal trip to Europe.
On a Red-Eye trip home from Heathrow to NYC, I was in the cheap seats on a BA B747-400, seat 47E. That puts me in the center row (4 seats in the middle), in the second seat to right of the aisle. People on both sides of me as well as in front and behind. Surrounding me on all sides was a Southern baptist church group. Probably the entire congregation, or at least it felt that way. About 2 hours into the flight as I was desperately trying to sleep, they started what amounted to a loud, religious service complete with the hallelujahs and all.
Flight attendants asked them to keep it quiet and they seemed to try, but, I was dead in the middle and no where to go. To be clear, I have no problem with whatever religion you want to follow. I just have no particular interest in being stuck in what amounted to flash church mob. Is that even a thing?
The flight was very full. I begged the flight attendants to let me sit in a jump seat someplace. They were full, too. AHHH. After the “service” ended, they began unpacking the food they had brought on board and began distributing it to their group ACROSS me. I don’t honestly know what they were eating, but, it didn’t seem too wonderful to me at the time. Kinda about as annoying as that coworker who brings in leftover fish and eats lunch super slowly at their desk. To top it off, they were mostly large people with all manner of perfume and hair products.
There’s an argument for first class right there. At least the seats are further apart.
Dammit, Bob (AscendingZ)
What are you trying to pull?
Couple months ago, I boarded a flight from São Paulo to Dubai (final destination: South Korea) accompanying a group of 20-30 year olds for a “field trip” to Samsung, LG, POSCO, Hyundai and all those goodie Korean companies. Anyway, in our flight there are many Nigerians on board, me being surrounded by them. One particular one (lets call him Bob, he is the main character of this story) keeps on standing up and talks loudly to others in the row behind me but they don’t respond to him (weird). One who was seated right next to me had such a strong BO that I was already dreading the 11hr flight to Dubai. Well that was the least of my concerns...
About half way into the flight, the FAs started to serve dinner and incredibly food was nice and Emirates still has steel cutlery (note on these for later). We all finish eating and lights are off. Couple minutes later Bob seemingly had just woken up from his sleep yells loudly demanding his dinner to be served immediately. FAs tried to explain, but to avoid further discussion they bring out the food. Bob, takes a bite, stands up and goes to the bathroom. Comes out, takes another bite and goes back in. This time he stays there for awhile like half an hour. FA comes around asks if he is ok (no response), while going back to her cabin, takes his leftover tray.
Bob, which is clearly having some issues (sweaty face, glazed eyes) comes out of the toilet and sees that the FA is taking his food away. He yells and sprints towards her, pushes her and grabs the metal cutlery from the tray and sprints to the back of the plane. At this point people are freaking out: TAs running after Bob, babies crying, mothers crying... and I am thinking how would I make a fire if the plane crash lands into a deserted island.
There is a commotion in the back of the plane, and female TA is seen running while crying. Bob reappears again, with the puny blunt knife cutlery in hand running after her. By this time couple of men stand up and run after him. We are told on PA to remain seated. We hear screaming in the front of the plane and an european elderly woman comes stumbling to our cabin screaming: WE NEED STRONG MEN.
Couple of boys from my group immediately stand up but I tell them to sit their asses down. I see two burly dudes from couple of rows in front getting up and hurring to help (these turned out to be off-duty Brazilian Federal Police officers). Couple minutes pass and then silence. PA comes alive and a TA is requesting if there are any doctors on board and if there is anyone who speaks Nigerian please get to the front of the plane. An asian woman gets up and goes to the front of the plane (I´m guessing she is a doctor). PA repeats if there is anyone who speaks Nigerian please come to the front of the plane.
I eyeball the dude next to me, clearly with his eyes open yet ignoring the announcement. Same as the dudes in the row behind me. TAs come along, sees these men and asks if they are Nigerian which they just shake their heads. I get a hold of the TA and explained that prior to the outburst I saw Bob in the toilet. I accompany the TA to the toilet and it has blood spots all over the toilet, mirror, walls. She locks up the toilet and asks me to return to my seat.
Five hours pass and we finally land in Dubai. I didn’t get any sleep fearing that the guys around me might do something, like hijacking the plane, but nothing happens. As soon as the doors are open, an official in arab garb enters the plane accompanied by 4 Dubai policemen. They grab Bob (which has been tied with some kind of rope and sedaded by the doctor) and disembark.
Long story short: Bob was smuggling drugs in his abdomen which apparently had burst, causing him to go on a mayhem. 6 other Nigerians were also apprehended with same charges. I feared for my life and the life of the dozen guys I was responsible for but we got a hell of a story to tell.
It's Getting Hot In Here (subiefamilyguy)
And this woman is drunk as shit.
Following our esteemed leader, I will not identify the airline with whom I was flying when the following horrors were unleashed upon me, if for no other reason than the airline identity is immaterial to the salient facts of the event.
It was mid-August and I had an afternoon flight from Philadelphia to Cleveland and was flying on an exotic CRJ. I was fortunate enough to secure a window seat, albeit in the very last row.
Boarding was uneventful. I made it to my seat and settled in. I reached up to crank the air conditioning since the outside temperature was quickly approaching the century mark. I received nothing more than a blast of hot air and was promptly informed that the APU couldn’t keep up with the outside heat, so we wouldn’t have A/C until we were en route. No biggie. Shouldn’t be a long wait. I’ll just close the window and swelter a bit.
A swaying woman sat down next to me and tucked her average-sized briefcase under the seat in front of her. She asked me to open the window because of claustrophobia. I agreed because, again, it shouldn’t be long before we have A/C.
As we waited for boarding to finish, it became apparent that my row-companion was more than slightly intoxicated. She was having a hard time keeping her eyes open and kept erupting with surprised snores. I chuckled to myself, but didn’t think much of it.
We pushed back and began taxiing out. Then came the announcement. Due to localized severe storms (really, storms at LGA), the FAA had initiated a ground stop at PHL so we would have to wait on the tarmac. Without A/C. The announced anticipated wait was forty-five minutes. A quick search of FlightAware indicated that the ground stop was likely to result in a 90 minute delay. Without A/C.
I’m a pretty laid-back traveler, so I pulled some work out of my backpack and began some mind-numbing legal research. After about ten minutes, my seatmate’s head lolled onto my shoulder. I gave a passive-aggressive shrug, which elicited another surprised snore and a slurred apology. Over the next twenty minutes, her head kept rolling onto my shoulder. Each time, I gave the same shrug, with the same results.
By this time, the airplane was more than a little warm. In addition to being pretty laid-back, I am relatively hygienic. I shower at least once a day and engage in all other socially-accepted fragrant niceties. But, it was coming up on 4 pm, with no A/C, outside temperatures approaching 100, and a day of parking and walking.
I had to grab another document from my backpack, requiring me to lean forward. As I was leaning back, her head lolled again, and this time she landed with her nose planted firmly between my left bicep and ribs. I had become more than a little frustrated, so I didn’t say or do anything and figured she would eventually move. For at least five minutes, she dozed, inhaling my musky masculinity more deeply than my wife has ever partaken. Eventually she gave a renewed snort and sat up.
Finally, we take off and the first minutes are uneventful. However, we began to hit some of the turbulence that is normal in a hot August. At this point, she stopped sleeping and gave a scream every time we hit a bump. I kept my nose in my work and engaged in some proud midwestern silent judgment.
As I was working, I heard a couple snip, snips. I thought, that’s an unusual sound, but kept working. Then, I felt something bounce off my left arm. I looked down, and on my paper there appeared to be a nail. A human nail. I gave a little gag and slowly rotated my head. She was CUTTING HER TOENAILS. At 35,000 feet. And THEY WERE FLYING OFF AND HITTING ME. Thankfully, she only had the normal 10 toes.
Finally, the 60 minute flight is over and we uneventfully land at Cleveland. We taxi to the terminal and pull up to the gate. As soon as the pilot put in park, she was up and out of her seat, grabbed her average sized non-animal carrier briefcase from under the seat, and bolted to the front of the plane. Even though we were seated in the very last row, she was the first one off the plane.
As I was walking to the rental car counter, I saw her again. She reached into her average sized non-animal carrier briefcase and pulled out a Pekingese dog. From her briefcase without air holes or any support emerged a living, breathing dog. Like a rabbit from the magician’s hat. She then proceeded to let the dog drink from the drinking fountain. She didn’t fill a bowl. She let the dog drink directly from the tap.
TL;DR: No A/C and 90 minute wait on tarmac, 5 minutes of which was spent with an intoxicated stranger’s nose in my sweaty armpit. The same stranger pelted me with her toenail clippings in flight. And she pulled a dog out and let it drink from the drinking fountain.
What, you don't like being licked?
I was on a JetBlue flight next to a 300lb mentally handicapped woman and her caretaker. Her caretaker immediately decided to nod off during takeoff next to the window, and the woman next to me decided that she would devote the entire duration of the Los Angeles-New York flight to her new mission in life. This mission was to lick me. So I can now say that I’ve spent several hours at 30,000 feet dodging a tongue. I ended up building a fort between us made up of pillows and blankets. Her caretaker woke up upon landing and said “Oh was she licking again?”
The one time I flew a normal flight on Spirit was still worse though.
Plane Outta Gas (TheBlightOfGrey)
Just put in 10 bucks, we'll make it.
Ever been on a plane where it runs out of gas? In my case I needed to get from Boise to Columbia, South Carolina, to teach a class to a hundred or so people. The United Airlines flight, on one of those regional jets (2x2), went through O’hare with a change of planes into Columbia. I know better than to fly on United anywhere, especially through Chicago, but no. So I deserved every bit of what happened.
Heading into Chicago there was “weather.” The plane didn’t have enough gas to circle so we flew to Peoria to fuel up. I’m thinking, what kind of airline is this?It’s like a poor person’s version of an airline where they can only afford $10 of gas at a time and didn’t top off the tanks? Or maybe those regional jets have small tanks. Probably the former to save weight and make more money.
We sat on the ground in Peoria for just short of the three hours, the point at which they would have had to let us off the plane or be fined. I pointed this out to the flight attendant. She was, of course, very sympathetic, but told me there was no gates that accommodated that kind of aircraft in Peoria. Actually she wasn’t nice (remember this is United Airlines) and she was lying, but whatever. They avoided their fine.
By the time we got to Chicago it was mayhem with the lineups. The best United could do (allegedly) was to fly me out the following day three hours after the class I was supposed to teach was over. The desk people were not helpful. It’s United! So I booked a flight on Southwest to fly to Charleston. Only problem was Southwest flies out of Midway not O’hare. After an $US80 cab ride I managed to board the Southwest flight (full disclosure- I love SWA, because they are rarely late). It was midnight by the time I got to Charleston with no luggage. I then drove a rental car to Columbia arriving at about 2 AM. The $150 drop charge seemed reasonable.
I got up in the morning, taught my class in a tee-shirt, jeans and a suit coat looking like some Romanian gangster. I will walk before I ever set foot on a United flight again.
Brake Fire (C-5M Load Smasher)
On the big and beautiful C-5B.
My worst is probably more than most have ever experienced. Brake fire.
Rewind to 2009 I think. Bagram AF, Afghanistan. My unit is in the middle of a stage where we move one Army unit worth of Helicopters into theater and for everyone that goes in, one comes out. Pretty simple. Not this day. This day sucked.
We alerted and stepped to the jet, a big beautiful C-5B, my first love. We load and secure our cargo for the day, two Chinooks and two passengers. Everything went well. Fast forward through engine start and taxi and we’re now getting ready to take off. I’m standing at 7R (one of the troop doors) so that upon takeoff I can scan for threats and call out flares if needed. All standard. Throttles get pushed forward and the pilot is calling out speed checks as we rumble down the runway. Go speed that day was something around 140 knots. At 120 knots I hear words I’ve never heard before, “REJECT, ENGINE OVERHEATING”.
At this point I’m confused but I’m smart enough to somehow bear hug the door bar and hold on because what happens next borders on violent. Pilot slams the two outboard engines in full thrust reverse and hits the brakes, HARD. Thank god I was holding on because I swear I went horizontal. After we stopped and turned off the runway I grabbed my backpack and ran forward to meet the Flight Engineer at the crew entry door. He hands me a pair of wheel chocks and says, “chock the nose, the brakes are over 900°” we never chock the nose wheels but it made sense because I don’t want to get anywhere near the 900° brakes.
So I run out the door and chock the nose. That’s when I feel it. The heat. So much heat. I turned and looked back, all of the wheels are cherry read and a select few are on fire. At this point my passengers are coming down so I grab them by the collar and quickly escort them away from the potential fireball.
Needless to say our flight back to Spain was delayed.
And DROP! (Thunder)
Like, very big drops.
A few stories my wife has, the good, the bad, and the crazy, plus one of my own:
Shortly after 9/11, she was routinely flying from Raleigh, NC to Albany, NY, often via Boston. It got to the point that the gate agents knew her by sight.
One day, as she went to check in, she was pulled aside at the gate for additional screening. She (gently) protested, and was told that they had to screen someone on every flight, and she was it. She said she gets that, but why her, to which she was told again she’s it.
She *WAS* “it”. That is, she was the only passenger on the 100-odd passenger CRJ regional jet. She sat up front with the stewardess, more hanging out than anything else. US Airways lost a bundle running that flight - I presume they needed the aircraft repositioned and had to run it anyway.
She was flying JetBlue, Charlotte to JFK as I recall. Upon arrival, she told her dad (who’s a commercial aviation nut) that the plane took two major drops during the flight that she said were 1000 feet. He, of course, said no way, it’s not possible.
Then he went on FlightAware and looked up her flight. That’s where he found that they weren’t 1000 foot drops... they were 13,000 and 11,000 feet, respectively.
On her return trip, late in the following day, the weather was forecast to be what I’ll kindly call “unpleasant”. She got to the gate, and asked the agent how rough it was going to be. In doing so, she mentioned she’d been on that previous flight. That’s when a nearby captain for the airline happened to overhear, and entered the conversation. He told her that they had heard about that flight, and that she would do best to choose to be bumped to a flight the following morning instead of getting on that evening’s.
Raleigh to Charlotte on a CRJ. They were late to push back, and the pilot said they were going to make up time.
He wasn’t kidding. She timed it: 18 minutes gate to gate. It’s roughly 120 nautical miles so gate to gate averaged 400 knots. If just two minutes were spent taxiing on each end, that’s an average of 514 knots. Three minutes each end, 600 knots average. With the 250 knot limit under 10,000 feet... well, it was impressive.
Finally, one of my own... that involves our own Jason Torchinsky, as it were:
I’m a private pilot; Jason was interested in doing a story about flying privately. We met one evening at my flying club, in Sanford, NC. I was doing a night recurrency flight, so we got all set to go, to the point of taking the runway and accelerating to flying speed... when it got REALLY dark. The landing light went out just as we lifted off.
Now that’s technically legal to fly; one of the things that you practice on the way to a pilot’s license is a no-light landing.
I immediately chopped power, decelerated, and pulled off the runway. On the taxi back, the light came on and went back off several times.
After we shut down, I could have chosen to take a different club plane, but just wasn’t feeling at the top of my game. Rather than take another 1/2 hour to secure that bird and preflight another, I chose to call it a night.
Wrong Doha (TooManyCars,TooLittleTime)
Oh, you meant the other one, ohh...
My worst involves landing in the wrong Middle East country during a time of hostility, staying awake for more than 3 days solid, and the spending Christmas Day snowed in at an airport. This is a long story, but a flight nightmare.
I was in the Air Force in the late 1990s, and back then Saddam Hussein made a game of threatening one country or another during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays every year ... his way of messing with US troop morale, because each of his little games caused some form of deployment, which takes people away from their families for a while. Most of these ended up being deployments for a few weeks, but you could get caught for 6 months.
Anyway, the second time I got the call for a holiday deployment, I drove to the airport in Lubbock, TX, about 2 hours from my base ... my job (public affairs) was on the specialized side, so I rarely (never) deployed with the regular troops ... typically flew commercially.
I didn’t have a passport, as those aren’t required for military orders. However, my orders were marked secret, and most of the paperwork was redacted in some way. All I was told is “you’re going to Camp Doha, get on a plane.” So after a quick yessir, I was on my way to Lubbock and a long flight to the Middle East.
The good part of this story is that nearly everytime I flew commercially back then … which was a lot … the airline would generally check my weapon and upgrade me to first class. It. Was. Sweet.
So I’m flying from Lubbock to Chicago, then on to London, where I stayed the night for some reason, and then on to … Doha. Here’s the rub: what I didn’t know, and what the base travel people didn’t know, is that there were two Dohas in the Middle East. One is in Kuwait, called Camp Doha, and was center of a lot of Air Force and Army deployments. The second is Doha, Qatar.
My orders apparently had me going to Qatar. Anyway, on the first class ride from London to Qatar, I sat next to a nice young guy who was studying at King’s College and flying home … just a nice young guy like me, so no big deal. We chat it up (I’m not allowed to disclose I’m in the military on deployment), and he offers his office number … I took it, thinking nothing of it. We land in Qatar, and the plane stops in the middle of the runway, and we’re surrounded by limos and a couple of cop cars. My seatmate gets off the plane here. Not know what’s going on, I ask the flight attendant what the deal is, and she tell me he’s the crown prince of the country. Allright, that was weird, but whatever. This will come back.
Next, the plane pulls into the regular parking spot and I get off, expecting some kind of US presence or greeting. It’s like 1 am, and there’s nobody waiting for me. Not knowing what to do, I try to clear customs. Without a passport, this is a problem. With redacted US orders, this is a problem. I’m not allowed though, and I can’t leave either. I’m stuck with no way of know who to call or where. I offer the card given to me by my seatmate (the prince), and ask if there’s something that can be done. They immigration people talk to whomever’s at the office, and I’m given permission to enter the country and stay at the Sheraton. OK. We’re in business.
Sleep through the night, and contact my base to see what went wrong. They don’t take long to figure out I’m supposed to be in Kuwait, not Qatar, so they give me the number in Kuwait … I call them, and they plan to arrange a military flight to pick me up.
Get a call back from my home base, and they say the deployment is cancelled, come home. Cool. But Kuwait is sending a plane for me, and I call to make sure they cancel it. They don’t want to cancel … a guy in my career field on semi-permanent deployment (as opposed to my conflict time deployment) really wants to go home. He out ranks me, and starts making moves to have me take up the rest of his time.
I don’t want that, and my base doesn’t want that. So they tell me to book a flight … any flight … home.
Last minute international flights are expensive, and they cost beyond my P card limit (Uncle Sam’s AMEX card) will take. So I have to get permission from my base commander to up my limit, and file a letter with AMEX.
Long story shorter, I finally book a flight home, spending something close to $10,000 in total. Head to the airport to leave, at which point I’d been up for two days solid trying to coordinate my trip home, avoid getting stuck in Kuwait, and the red tape in between (it isn’t easy booking a flight with no passport).
At the airport, I’m asked to pay a tax to leave. Fine. I pay something like $50 and expect to move on. Except it’s Ramadan, and the security guys don’t like that I have US military orders. I’m alone, and what am I going to do. They make me pass through the tax line twice more, which requires another trip to the ATM. Make it though, finally, and have to pay more tax for my weapon. Whatever … after two days, I’m through security and on a plane toward home.
I can’t sleep on planes to save my life. No idea why. But I suffer through the ride from Qatar to London (no first class upgrade for the ‘Murican here), then from London to Chicago.
So exhausted. I land in Chicago, and it’s snowing and most of the flights are starting to get cancelled. I call my mom to tell her that I’m in the US, and I distinctly remember hallucinating at the phone booth. It was one of those jobs with lots of dots punched into a stainless steel background … anyway, those dots were talking to me like a ticker tape machine. It was bizarre, and I felt truly awful.
I manage to get one of the last planes in the right direction of home, from Chicago to Dallas. I land in Dallas, to be told that this will be the last flight in or out for at least 12 hours, probably more.
Did I mention it’s now Christmas Eve? I’ve been up for 3 days. I’m snowed in at Dallas with no way out. There are no hotels available because everyone booked them.
I guess I looked as bad as I felt, because an American Airlines gate agent took pity and asked what she could do … I explained my situation, and it turns out she could help after all. Airlines hold over a few extra rooms for international customers, and I was one. I got a room, and slept like the dead though most of Christmas Day. I caught a flight out of Dallas that evening, flew to Lubbock, and drove home.
And so endeth the worst possible flying journey I could have.
Male Flight Attendant Tried To See My Penis (Andrew)
From a gentleman named Andrew, via email:
Title: Male Flight Attendant tried to see my penis
SO I was going to a wedding in New Orleans and wanted to get there cheaply as it was a big cost for everything else in the wedding. I bought tickets on Spirit never having flown them and the had heard horror stories. So I fly out of DC to a stop in Chicago and then onto New Orleans. First part is fine, tight seats but oh well. We land in Chicago and the entire flight gets off except me. The staff told me to stay on as the plane would fill up again with the group in Chicago.
I have never experienced this before, but ok. So its going to be 20 minutes and I start chatting with the flight attendant. General convo - eventually land on where our families are from. I said how my dad is from England and I was born there. He smirks (he was obviously gay and that is completely fine) and he goes I have always wanted to see a British cock. I chuckle and he gets a serious look on his face.
I awkwardly laugh now and ask if he ever been there. He then asks me that he has really wanted to see one and asks if he can see mine. I say that’s not really my thing and again try to move on but he is now sitting next to me near the back of the plane (rest of the staff to the front). He says its wouldn’t be a big deal and he just wants to see it (leaning in). I say thanks man, but not really my scene. He looks genuinely sad and says he wouldn’t touch it, he just wants to know how big I am. I am now really uncomfortable and say man, im good thanks.
He quickly jumps up and says he will make sure I get a good seat. He let me sit in the last right next to the window (instead of a middle seat a few aisles up). As the Chicago people boarded, he stood next to my row and told the two people who were suppose to be there that I have a special need and I have to sit on an open section. They were pretty pissed and I felt again bad. Flew to New Orleans and he gave me a butt tap as I got up and left the flight when we landed.
What Is That Smell? (tiltz)
Make sure your mask is secure before assisting others.
When I was a kid we were moving from Colorado to Washington. The morning had started off well enough. We were running late in a rental car and of course my mom got pulled over a couple of miles from the airport. I think her tears got her out of the ticket.
We unloaded our baggage and our three nervous dogs and handed them over baggage check-in agents. My sisters and I then separated from my Mom since she needed to return the rental car. Us kids managed to get to the gate while they were loading the plane. We waited and waited and finally they made the final boarding call and our Mom was still no where to be seen. They closed the gate door and we sat there in the empty terminal.
A few minutes later our mom arrived in a frantic desperation. She pleaded with the gate agent to let us on, but wasn’t able to get them to let us on the plane. The agent was nice enough to get us seats on the next flight a couple of hours later.
The next couple of hours were uneventful while we waited for the next plane to arrive, but once we were able to load the plane, the real fun began. My sisters, mom and I were all separated since we weren’t originally intended to be on that flight. Once we got in the air at cruising altitude the rough turbulence began. The captain explained that the skies were going to be rough for most of the flight, but he would do his best to make the flight as smooth as possible. The DC-10 was shaking and jarring. People were clenching their arm rests and closing their eyes in prayer. The flight attendants suspended all of their services.
About an hour into the flight smoke started emanating from the rear of the plane with a distinctive burning plastic smell. A handful of people got out of their seats and headed toward the front of the plane (still bad turbulence). At the same time the flight attendants rushed toward the back. There was a bunch of commotion and loud noises and few minutes later the captain came back over the speaker and told everyone what had happened.
He explained that there was an electrical fire in the rear seating area that had been contained with a fire extinguisher. They had cut power to that area and there was no longer a safety issue so we would be continuing on to our destination. They moved everyone that was sitting in that area to the empty seats in the front of the plane.
The next hour or so was mostly uneventful. The turbulence was still pretty bad and the seat belt sign remained lit, but people were relaxing a bit more. Then all of sudden the oxygen masks dropped and some alarms went off. People began freaking out and commotion ensued as everyone began fiddling with the masks to get them put in place. The flight attendants came out to assist people with the masks and then a few moments later the captain came on.
He explained that to avoid some of the turbulence the aircraft begun flying at a higher altitude. Apparently he flew too high which triggered a pressure change and the oxygen masks to deploy. After a bit of time the flight attendants came through the aisles and told people the masks were no longer needed.
The rest of the flight was okay, aside from the lingering burning plastic smells and the dangling Oxygen masks. When we got near to Seattle the sky was completely clear and there was a nice heavenly view of Mt. Rainier. We landed and the entire plane cheered and clapped. I guess everyone thought they were gonna die after the events that had transpired.
Babies On A Plane (Jacou)
Or, more specifically, inconsiderate parents.
The worst is probably the time i was on an 11hr redeye to South Africa back in 2008. They were about to serve dinner (I was sitting in the front exit seat next to the gallery, leg room ftw, seriously i thought i was the luckiest guy in the world) and was watching Twilight (Edward is so hawt, ermahgerd).
Anyway, i was pretty into the movie with headphones on. Then i started to notice that the smell of our dinner (chicken and/or beef) started to be replaced by what seemed to be shit.
At first i kinda ignored it and just assumed it must be coming from the toilets which were a few feet away from me (dawned on me the front exit row perhaps isn’t that great after all). But it kept getting stronger, and stronger, to the point where it was physically burning my air passages, eyes, and all other soft tissue.
At this point I look up to figure out wtf is happening and to my absolute horror discover that the couple next to me are CHANGING THEIR BABY’S SHITTY DIAPER, AT THEIR SEATS, RIGHT NEXT TO ME!
My BrainOS crashes, i suffer some kind of BSOD, and just freeze with my mouth open and face scrunched up in horror, confusion, pain, and complete non-understanding of whats happening.
Horror/confusion turned to absolute rage but being the polite Englishman i am instead I concealed my true emotions and politely pointed out that the toilet, not 6 feet away, has baby changing facilities.
They replied in some form of broken english/tongues/gobbledygook (I later learned this is called Afrikaans, no offense to any South African’s reading this) and clearly didn’t understand what i was saying. DAMNIT!
I could see a steward in the gallery was also struggling with the slow melting of their soft tissues caused by this literal shitshow next to me. Caught their attention and gestured to the freakazoids next to me.
He came over and I’ll never forget his face as he was confronted with the scene. There were used shitty baby wipes EVERYWHERE, they placed the used diaper NEXT TO ME, and were applying some form of talcumpowder to the baby (which was going EVERYWHERE).
Now my thoughts of rage and pain were replaced by all the horrible things this guy was going to do/say to the couple and the baby. Surely there’s laws against what they just did i thought.
To my disappointment they just received a stern talking to in their native language. While I, for the remaining 9 hours, had to endure the lingering stench of shit, acid, and old people (talcum powder) preventing me from enjoying any sleep. I was now the unluckiest guy in the world.
Nobody Barfed! (ScottsMerkin)
Except for the First Officer.
6 am flight out of Lake Charles to DFW, still probably drunk from drinking all night in the casino. Wife is the flight attendant working this regional jet flight. Im in seat 1A and right as I nod off over houston, bam, clear air turbulence. My ass is out of the seat and my head is banging the ceiling. The plane is losing altitude. Then bam, again massive turbulence.
the plane is rocking side to side and I feel like im gonna puke everywhere. I look back down the aisle and the drink cart is tipped over and my wife’s leg is cut. There is lav water all over the back of the plane. From the cockpit I hear, get control of it and the other pilot saying, Im fucking trying, I cant get fucking control. Then some more slow rolling turbulence and I hear oh shiiiiit from the cockpit and bam another drop in altitude. My stomach feels as if it is in my throat. It seemed like eternity and I really thought they were going to lose it but finally it smooths out.
Then the phone in the cabin rings, but my wife cant get past the drink cart. Passengers are helping lift the cart off her leg and she tells me to answer the phone. the pilots ask if everyone is ok and I tell them the passengers seem fine, the FA has a cut leg and there are drinks and lav water all over the plane. They say to tell everyone to remain seated and for me to help the FA get the drink cart mess picked up and to have her make an announcement that we are asking requesting priority landing at DFW with emergency vehicles, but that they weren’t declaring an emergency unless the FA calls them back and tells them too.
So we finally land and emergency vehicles meet us. No one asks for help but the airline has reps there to handle the passengers. The Captain opens the cockpit door before we deplane and asks if everyone is ok and says he is pleased to announce that the only person to puke was the First Officer and he did it all over the cockpit. We all had a good laugh at that.
Bobby Age 5 (KartRacer)
My literal nightmare.
Bobby Age 5 was an unaccompanied minor on a flight from Detroit to New Orleans. Now two things to know about me as background are that 1) I have no kids, and 2) I’m not much of a talker on flights. I intentionally purchase over the ear noise cancelling headphones in hopes my fellow passengers get the hint. I’m probably going to sleep on the flight.
If I’m not exhausted I probably have some work to do. And if by some miracle of all that is holy I’m not exhaust or have to work, I just want to lose myself in a good book for a couple of hours and be left alone. Don’t tell me about your business, your grandchildren, your dog, or anything else. Leave me the F alone and we’ll get along just fine.
So anyway, I’m sitting in first class when lo and behold, my seat mate on the aisle is none other than Bobby Age 5. I know he was 5, because he told everyone with whom he interacted that his name was Bobby and he was 5 years old. And he liked to interact. A lot. If you put your headphones on to ignore him, he’d tap you on the shoulder with his pointy little finger until you acknowledged him. If you fell asleep, he’d wake you up.
Bobby Age 5 was unusually worldly for someone aged 5, IMO. He spoke on a number of topics. Favorite cartoon characters. School. His mom. His dad. His grandmother. His friends. Mostly he liked talking about how the plane was likely to crash. He had watched TV programs. There were many ways planes could crash. Pilot error. Engine failure. Bad weather. The plane breaking apart. This plane was likely to crash.
I’m not afraid of flying, but Bobby Age 5 definitely spoke loudly to anyone within ear shot that they should be. For the better part of 3 hours, I was trapped against the window as Bobby Age 5's new best friend.
Fortunately the Northwest flight attendants recognized this situation. While they couldn’t prevent it, they threw stacks of drink coupons at me in sympathy. I chalked this up to a bad and unlucky flight and went on with my week.
On my return flight home 5 full days later, I happened to be sitting near the gate desk, where two agents were talking about what a rough week it had been. Various troubles were reviewed, weather, flight delays, and the one mentioned that an unaccompanied minor’s guardian had been over 4 hours late in picking up a child on Monday. I caught this nugget of conversation, raised my head, and blurted out, “Not Bobby Age 5?”
The agent, and I am using exact quotes here, said, “Holy shit! You know Bobby?” I explained I had sat next to Bobby on the DTW to MSY flight. She just shook her head, and looked down at her computer. Within 60 seconds she upgraded me to first class on the return flight. Bobby Age 5 was QUITE famous amongst the Northwest staff of MSY. And apparently for FOUR hours while he awaited his grandparents to pick him up, he “interacted” with the gate agents. I wrote them nice reviews on their surveys and got very drunk on the flight home.
Who Needs Wheels Anyways? (fortneja)
They are so overrated.
I was on a Trans-Pacific flight in a 747 landing in Seoul in rough weather. Everything was fine up until the final approach when suddenly it was as if someone opened a trapdoor. This was not the normal turbulence that you sometimes get that brief weightless feeling on. This was like God stomping the jet into the ground.
Everyone felt several seconds of negative G just before the aircraft slammed into the runway. The impact was so hard, the wings deflected enough to cut the tall grass next to the runway. Now of course aircraft wings are designed to flex, but if these had bent just another foot or two at the tips, it would have been plowing the ground. I watched the whole thing from my window.
On another flight into Taipei, our plane was making touchdown when a horrible screech of rending metal met our ears. The aircraft showed no signs of slowing, and about halfway down the runway, the jets fired on full throttle and we roared back up into the sky and began to circle.
After several minutes, the captain came on the intercom and calmly said “due to a schedule change, air traffic control has requested us to abort landing. We will be landing shortly.”
After another 15 minutes, we again make s a final approach only to hear the rending metal sound again. As if a hundred Freddie Krugers scratched simultaneous chalkboards in an orchestra of agony. The plane bucked side to side and bunny hopped the whole way down the runway. Finally, it came to rest in one of the taxiways and was towed to the gate.
They never said what happened, but as I left the plane, I looked outside and lo and behold: several rear landing gear wheels were missing.
Thankfully, aircraft are built with redundancies for just such an occasion, so we probably weren’t ever in any serious danger, but that awful sound still sends shivers down my spine.