Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

The Frailty of a Landing: A dangerous time to be airborne

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Life | 0 comments

The airplane was one foot off the ground from the Harry Reid International Airport runway when it took back up — almost as if saying, “Psych!!!!”

I had just experienced, and not for the first time, a rejected landing.

Obviously, something happened. Maybe the pilot came down a little too late, or he was going to run out of runway. Rejected landings are not great, but they are better than for-sure-crashings.

The pilot comes on (after a few turns too late) to announce (way too close to the microphone the way pilots do), “Folks, everything is okay in the front. The runway got too tight, and we had to take it back up. We will be landing in five minutes.”

Moments like this make me appreciate when I’d fly back to Barranquilla, and once the plane landed, every passenger would break into applause and hug their neighbors.

Of course, the practice is ludicrous, but moments like this make me appreciate it.

My wife, who was a flight attendant for a few years, militantly reminds me that most accidents happen at take-off and landing.

Think of Asiana Airlines Flight 214. On a flight from Incheon to San Francisco, the motor was idle at the landing and hit a seawall with its tail instead of the runway.

The accident killed two people on impact, and then a third victim, who survived the crash, was run over by a fire truck. This is a reminder to put your seat belt on AND to look both ways when jaywalking out of a plane crash.

It will soon be the tenth year anniversary of that crash, and I still talk about it way too much. It was historic for two reasons: it was the first time anyone died on a Boeing, and it was the object of the KTVU prank.

The San Francisco news show was led to believe by an intern at the National Transportation Safety Board that the names of the pilots were “Sum Ting Wong,” Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow.” You can still find the video on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

I don’t like rejected landings.

I always imagine so much logistics and coordination involved in them, and that makes me nervous. I typically don’t think ALL human beings are great at logistics. What if that day you get a subpar air traffic controller? The one who doesn’t take their jobs seriously and, on that rejected landing/emergency take-off, the plane crashes against another plane because the controller couldn’t remember if they turned off the stove or if it’s time for their cat’s annual vet visit.

I don’t like rejected landings.

Especially not now. This is a particularly fraught time for all of us window-seat travelers.

We are on edge. We know it could’ve been one of us in that Boeing 737 Max 9.

We have been playing in our minds all the times when we have taken a nap without our seatbelts, defiantly laying our head against the window without knowing that the whole section of the plane was bolted in or that when one door closes, your window can fly open.

Or we play over the times when we were so absorbed by our work that we kept plugging away without the seat belt on. Now, that would be a tragedy; to be shot out of the airplane, computer in tow and none of your progress saved into the cloud.

I remember getting to Houston one time in a heavy storm. We were not clear for landing, so we just hovered over the airport. Eventually, the pilot got on the speaker to announce (way too close to the microphone the way pilots do), “Sorry, folks, we have run out of gas, so we are going to San Antonio to refuel.”

I wanted to ask, “Excuse me, Mr. Pilot, did you mean that we are almost out of gas? Because if you really did mean that we are all out of gas, then the sentence should be, ‘Sorry, folks, we have run out of gas, and we are going to try to make it to San Antonio to refuel, but most likely we are going to crash because, well, airplanes need gas to function.’”

As you can see, I made it.

The pilot landed on the second try on this flight to Las Vegas. We will never know how close we came to our own demise.

And even though I was overjoyed, I still didn’t applaud.

It’s weird when an entire plane breaks into applause, but it is even weirder when you are the only one doing it.


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