Sunday, November 02, 2008

Action Movie Weekend

My first emergency landing. A hostage situation. This is one two-day trip that shouldn't have happened.
Day one. On our way into Bismarck, N.D., the captain called me and told me that the flaps weren't working.

ME: The flaps aren't working?
CAPTAIN: Nope.
ME: The flaps?
CAPTAIN: Yup.
ME: Not working?
CAPTAIN: You got it.
ME: Don't we kinda need those?
CAPTAIN: Usually.
ME: So what are we going to do now that they're not working?
CAPTAIN: Uh, land.
ME: Is it going to hurt?
CAPTAIN: No. I mean, probably not. It's just going to happen a lot faster than you ever thought possible.

Back in FA school, they trained us in a procedure called 'preparing the cabin,' wherein we announce to the passengers that we're all going to die, and then make them assume silly positions so that the coroners all laugh. I asked the captain if he wanted me to do this, and he said no. Just keep quiet, he said. Then, as soon as he hung up and I began to be quiet, he announced to the passengers everything he had just told me. I may never understand why he did that. Then we all buckled in and waited for the landing.
Fortunately, what's called a zero flap landing is one of the more common emergency landings, because flaps often don't work. Pilots train to do this in the simulator all the time, and not only did we all survive this landing, it was actually a hell of a lot of fun. Imagine a regular landing. Now press FF on that landing, and you get a zero flap landing. I asked later, and the captain said that instead of the customary one-hundred-fifty miles an hour, we touched down at about two hundred. I'm sure there were passengers that wished that landing had been normal. As for me, I never wanted to have another normal landing again.
Day two. When returning to the US from Saskatchewan, you have to go through customs in Denver, which means there's a small part of the Denver airport that is technically still Canada. And when we attempted to step onto US soil there, the immigration police did not let us.

US: Wait, what?
THEM: You can't come into our country.
US: OK. Why?
THEM: An earlier flight from your airline didn't provide the proper declaration documents.
US: We are providing the proper declaration documents.
THEM: Yes, but they didn't.
US: Uh, what happened to them?
THEM: We let them into the country.
US: You... you let them in because they didn't have their documents.
THEM: Yes.
US: And you're... not letting us in... because we have our documents.
THEM: We're not letting you in because you don't have their documents.
US: Why would we have their documents?
THEM: Because we need their documents.
US: Well, why can't you get their documents from them?
THEM: Because we already let them into the country.

The conversation the captain had with the border guards really did sound that stupid. Apparently, they'd been on the phone with our head honchos all day trying to get the documents faxed over from our HQ, and since the honchos never really got all that around to it, the guards held us hostage until they got their documents. They eventually got their documents. We eventually got into the country. What we eventually didn't get was lunch, because we spent our lunch break blindfolded in a tiger cage in the bowels of the Denver airport.
The lesson here is, always fly on a plane with working flaps, and always work for a damn airline that has documents.
The movie comes out next summer. Rutger Hauer plays me. They offered me the role, but I turned it down... I lived it.

9 Comments:

Blogger Aviatrix said...

I may never understand why he did that.

In a situation where the passengers might be frightened, as opposed to just pissed off and cranky, the reassuring voice of the actual captain is supposed to make them feel everything will be okay. That way they don't wonder, "Or did the 'stewardess guy' [passengers don't know the word 'flight attendant' yet] just kill the captain and dump him overboard in preparation for turning us helpless passengers in a zombie army?"

Or the captain didn't trust you not to say "the flappy things aren't working, but what the hell did we need those for anyway?"

As for me, I never wanted to have another normal landing again.

You made me laugh so hard. You should have been a paratrooper instead of an eavesdropper. I do flapless or reduced flap landings for practice at work when there are no passengers on board. Wheee! But it doesn't make nearly as big a speed difference for me.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Wayne Conrad said...

Phil, Truly enjoyable entry. The exchange with customs is priceless. Thanks!

11:55 AM  
Anonymous sandtalker said...

I can't believe you spilled the beans on the secret tiger basement under Denver... Now they will find you...

7:04 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Avi: You know, that makes sense. "The flappy things aren't working" was almost exactly what I would have said. And speaking of paratrooper, look forward to THAT entry as soon as it's warm enough to jump here this summer.
Wayne: Seriously. You can't make this stuff up. Glad you thought it was as funny as I did.
Sand: I need to do a secret cellphone video expose on the underground bunker in Denver. Cause there really is one. But as damn ridiculous as it is to actually have one of those, I know exactly where I'm going when the balloon goes up.

3:08 PM  
Blogger 競兎 said...

haha fun times!

1:34 AM  
Anonymous X-av8r said...

I was in first class section of a USAirways 757 from CLT to LAX and approaching LA the flaps wouldn't extend. The captain briefed the lead FA that the landing would be fast and they would really have to get on the brakes. Somehow a forward facing Galley cupboard didn't get secured properly and the door popped open on the rollout. A couple bushels of nice white china plates came leaping out and it sounded like a Greek wedding celebration. It was spectacular, to say the least.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

X: I think our airline takes our average IQ into consideration by only allowing us to use plastic sippy cups for service. I DID leave an atlas unlocked once, and I managed to catch it with my leg from the jumpseat before it fell out, but I had to stay that that for the whole taxi, and passengers thought I was doing aerobics.
Poster before X: Your name is made of small sticks and I can't pronounce it. Explain yourself.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Phil: ROFL...I love your language concept of the "small sticks". While I don't know the language, I believe it is Japanese and I think it translates to "Competitive Rabbit".

BTW - When are you going to come back? We miss your posts!!!

6:33 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Steve: "Competitive Rabbit?" I think I love that. I love that you know that, and also that someone is named that. I think all names should be named of sticks. When I was learning Arabic, my Arabic name was Rami, which means 'One Who Throws Stuff.' That was a pretty accurate moniker, but it was made of squiggles, and thus not quite as cool.

8:56 PM  

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