What It’s Like to Be on a Plane Expected to Crash

A few years ago, my ex-boyfriend was on a flight where the landing gear wouldn’t go down on.  He was flying with a girl he had just had a fight with and they had broken up.

The whole experience was on TV.  And let’s just say, they’re married now.

I was thinking about this story because I was reading a thread on Quora where someone asked people about their experiences on planes that were expected to crash and whether or not the flight attendant informed them what was going on.

airplane bad weather

A man told the experience of slowing figuring out his plane might not make it:

The pilot came on the intercom and said ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, we’ve obviously had a malfunction. The smoke will clear very quickly. (which it did). We will land at the closest airport which is Grand Rapids Michigan. Please hold on for more info.’

So, everybody is pretty calm for a couple of minutes until the stewardesses began the crash positions talk. I was very calm and reassured my daughter that everything would be fine. HOWEVER, from our seats in the front row we could see into the galley where the two most senior stewardesses were openly sobbing and praying over a Rosary. Holy crap, this was serious.

The rest of the answer is worth a read.

The worst I’ve had in terms of danger was a really hard landing in extreme cross-winds.  They never said anything was up, but you could tell it.

But I WAS on a flight that had to do an emergency diversion.  They didn’t say anything, but just from flying so much, I knew something was wrong with the way we were turning, and the ground below us stopped looking familiar.

They let us know we were emergency diverting once we were on the descent.

Another time, I could tell we were in landing position at Richmond Airport, even though we were supposed to land at DCA.  Then, the plane suddenly veered around.  And we safely landed at DCA.

I asked the flight attendant if we almost diverted to Richmond, and he said we did, and added, but thankfully we didn’t.  He didn’t really say more on it or why.

Have you ever been on a flight with an emergency landing?  Did they let you know what was going on?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. An American Airlines flight from SAT to DFW: we diverted probably ten minutes after takeoff to AUS; it smelt like an electrical fire onboard, but there wasn’t any signs of smoke. The flight attendant looked really rattled about the whole situation and simply came on and said that we were landing immediately without much information as passengers grew uncomfortable with the scent. I’ve never gone so fast at so low of an altitude; the air breaks into AUS threw you back into your seat. Once on the ground, we rolled to a stop at the end of the runway, where we were met by a fire crew who inspected the aircraft. After sometime there, we were able to taxi to the gate. The crazy thing was that I still made my connection in DFW to LHR, which had been delayed due to a mechanical delay.

  2. Somewhere around 2008 I was on a flight from IAH to PIT. About an hour (maybe less) into the flight we started losing altitude VERY fast (it was controlled, but a much faster rate of decent than I’d ever experienced). After a couple of minutes of that we finally leveled out and the captain came on to tell us that he had received a warning of imminent cabin depressurization (or something to the effect) and that the reason for the quick decent was to get below 10,000′ so that we could all still breathe if the cabin were to depressurize. Basically, the passengers weren’t notified until it was all under control. We diverted to Memphis where Continental (I think it was still Continental at the time) proceeded to botch things up royally and it really ticked everyone off.

    First they couldn’t find a crew at IAH to come get us, then the plane that they sent to get us had to turn around because it had some sort of malfunction too, then they finally got the new plane to Memphis and the new plane had to sit there for a couple of hours because of a window seal issue of some sort.

    Want to say that I was supposed to get into PIT at 11PM and ended up getting home closer to noon the following day, but I guess it could have been worse.

  3. I have been asked many times if I have been in a crash or what was my scariest flight. After 4MM+ miles I have never been in an inflight emergency that I have known (key word) about. I divert due to weather on the way to home to DCA or other locations but that is all. Hearing all the stories makes me wonder if I am prepared for “that moment” when you hear the announcement or if I will know before being told because of the time I spend in a plane?

  4. I’ve been in 2 emergency situations, 1 that might have been dire.

    The first one was on an MD80 out of Portland to Dallas. On takeoff, there was a really loud banging as one of the engines failed. The captain got on and explained that we had blown an engine, everything was fine but we had to return to PDX after burning off some fuel. The crew was calm but… there were a group of Spanish speakers returning thru Dallas and none of the crew spoke Spanish. The FA asked for a translator and I got to translate the announcements which was kind of cool but still a little nerve wracking.

    The other more serious one was on an MD 80 from DFW to New Orleans. The sensors were showing that one tire had blown and possibly as many as 3. I first knew something was wrong when the FA came up to those of us in the exit row before the announcement and said strongly but calmly, “In about 15 minutes, I may have a job for you to do and I need to know now if you can do it.” She explained that we would be landing in “emergency seating positions”, that there might be problem with the landing gear and we needed to be prepared.

    The cabin crew then prepared the cabin, explained the situation, went into emergency mode drill including showing how to assume the crash position and walked from row to row announcing the count for the nearest exits. “Your closest exit is (5,4,3 etcs rows behind/ahead of you) the second exit is …” We landed safely and the problem was probably the indicators. Everyone was calm and compliant.

    I later wrote a letter to AA praising the flight crew for their professionalism and leadership and was surprised to see the same FA on a later flight and she remembered me. She told me the letter had been passed around her home station and thanked me. So that was cool.

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