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The whooshing/grinding noise that I was hearing from outside and underneath us was not a noise that the airplane was supposed to be making. I was sure of it.
Frequent flying gives one a pretty good idea of the range of normal noises that an airplane makes, and nope, that was definitely not one of them.
I took a deep breath and gave my husband’s hand a reassuring squeeze while looking over at him and giving him a smile that I hoped would not betray how worried I was.
Despite my calm facade, I proceeded to inconspicuously retrieve the ever present emergency information card from the seat back pocket in front of me, reassured momentarily by the fact that the nearest emergency exit was indeed behind us. Another deep breath.
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Having just convinced myself that I should not worry because I generally have a high level of trust in the skills and training of our pilots and crews, I saw the lead flight attendant came back from first class with a worried look on her face. She was heading for the back galley to confer with her co workers. Hmmmm. Deep breath.
I was not officially worried until the lead flight attendant came over into the bin above our seats and fished a thick looking, red manual out of the bottom of her bag.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. We are having a small problem with the hydraulics in the landing gear. We will be working through procedures to see if we can fix it and that will take us another 10 minutes or so. If we are not successful, we will be returning to Detroit.”
This was a first. Miraculously, in all of the flights that I have taken over the last couple of years, nothing has ever gone mechanically wrong. We have thankfully never experienced an aircraft emergency.
I was fervently hoping that the lucky streak could continue, when the captain came back over the speaker. “Ladies and gentleman, we will indeed be making an emergency landing back in Deroit. Do not be alarmed, we will be met on the runway by airport emergency vehicles. It is standard procedure in this situation. Please, let me assure you that the landing gear is down and locked and we will be on the ground in a few minutes.”
Despite my trust of our captain’s word, I still closed my eyes and gripped the arms of the seat as the wheels touched down. Red emergency lights flashed past as we decelerated, a convoy of various emergency vehicles speeding to meet us, just in case.
I slowly let out the breath that I had been holding as we taxied safely to the gate. Commercial air travel, particularly in Western countries is by and large very safe, so I generally don’t worry, but this experience made me just a wee bit nervous.
Have you ever been involved in an airplane emergency (or an almost emergency?)