"Half the passengers in this story had no idea, while the other half likely crapped themselves. My father was a captain for Eastern Airlines and told a story about almost being at takeoff speed when another commercial jet taxied across his runway. He was going too fast to abort so he had to pull up early and cleared the other plane by feet (don't remember the exact amount). His passengers had no idea but the other plane's passengers saw everything. I don't know what ended up happening to the other pilot, but my dad got an apology call from him that evening."
"My father is a commercial pilot and has been for decades. A couple years ago, he was in Brazil and on takeoff, the tire blew. It ripped a giant hole right through the wing of the plane. He had to dump thousands of gallons of fuel and managed to land the plane. The write-up that made the news was something like, 'A plane had to do an emergency landing after an event today, no one was hurt.'
HOWEVER, all the mechanics and people involved said they absolutely couldn't believe he managed to land that plane in the condition it was in. They claimed he should have crashed and couldn't believe it. He was very angry that they didn't tell the passengers the truth and didn't want to fly again for a couple months. He was very shaken."
"I had a pilot go NORDO (that's when, for whatever reason, they aren't on my frequency anymore - they didn't get the right one, misheard, or their radios crapped out). It happens fairly often, and there are a number of things we can do to get you back in the right place.
This particular guy, however, went NORDO at precisely the worst time. He was going eastbound, which means he was at an odd altitude. He lost his radio, and his flight plan then had him turn southbound. That means he was supposed to be at an even altitude, which he obviously wasn't.
There were about a dozen different planes going northbound that were at his altitude, so he ended up running one heck of a gauntlet through all these people as I was descending and climbing them to get them out of his way.
Then, apparently in an act of sheer ignorance on the pilot's part, he decided to choose an even altitude all by himself, knowing he should probably be at one.
Remember all those planes I had to move out of his way? He managed to put himself right back into them. When you have closure rates of over 1,000 knots an hour, that's not a lot of time to react to those things. At the end, my butthole was clenched so tight that when I stood up, the seat came with me."
"My friend was a co-pilot on a commercial flight I was on from Toronto to Los Angeles and it was the scariest flight I have been on and getting the co-pilot's perspective after the flight made it even scarier.
The flight went very smoothly until we were making the decent into Los Angeles airport (LAX) just after 10 PM. I was looking out the window and it seemed as if we were 20 meters from touching the runway when all the lights began to flicker and the plane went into complete darkness! Immediately, you could feel and hear the engines thunder into overdrive and we pulled back up.
The plane continued rising and we began to circle the air in complete darkness as everyone begins to share concerns. The flight kept circling for about 20 minutes before the pilot came on explaining they were having some technical problems, and they are discussing with the ATC to resolve the issue and make a safe landing. The circling in the air continued for nearly an hour but it seemed like an eternity in pitch black. Lights never came on, and we were notified we were going to make an attempt to land. People say this all the time but I can assure you, THIS was one scary descent! The bumpiest descent I have ever been part of. We were constantly being lifted from our seats, the seatbelt light really had merit this time. People were screaming each time and I was actually holding onto the armrests and we kept defying gravity and swaying left and right. When we saw the lights on the runway inch closer, the plane slammed onto the runway and we once again heard the engines roaring as we slowed down on the runway. As we came to a stop, the plane just stayed there and waited on the runway for a tow to the docking area. You could feel the relief within the cabin. If everyone was sitting on toilets, I can assure you, each one would need a flush.
After we arrived, I met with the Co-Pilot a few hours later, as we had planned to meet for a day before he had to fly out of town. He explained they lost electrical power and had lost several forms of communication and flight information was not available to the pilots. Ultimately, the pilots had to land the plane manually with nearly no assistance or outside help. Considering it was night time, poor visibility and limited flight information available, this made for a very crappy landing. He admitted as well it was the scariest flight he has been on."
"My cousin was a pilot for one of the feeder airlines. He was descending at night into Pittsburg during an ice storm when there was a bright flash and explosion right in front of the cockpit. He and his copilot can't see, can't hear. Essentially blind, they increase power and start to climb out. After 10-20 seconds, their hearing and vision start coming back and they see the flight instruments spinning randomly. Calmly they start going through the checklist and reboot the plane. Ten minutes later they make an uneventful landing. Ground inspection reveals a hole the diameter of a pencil in the nose of the plane about a foot in front of the windscreen and another smaller mark on one of the prop blades:
"LAX Air Traffic Control botched a landing for us once. I was a passenger on a United Express jet coming into Los Angeles in the evening. We were just about to touch down on the runway when all the lights in the cabin and AC went off, and simultaneously the engines outside roared. Suddenly we were vertical, shooting back into the air. Everyone shrieked and gasped. I was glued to my window and looked down and saw we hurdled over another plane that had been taxiing across where we were landing. We got into the air, went out over the ocean and began to turn around. The lights flickered back on and the AC returned. Then over the PA the captain explains in a really smart-aleck tone: 'Sorry about that folks. Air traffic control thought it would be a good idea to put another plane in our path. I decided to jump over him. Were gonna try that again.' Then something about sitting tight and we would be down in another 15 minutes. That little express jet had some insane power."
"I am a pilot (single engine, small aircraft only), but one flight I was a passenger and the pilots avoided telling us about a disaster until we were about to land.
On a flight to Florida, one of the front wheels fell off during takeoff. Luckily, the front of the passenger aircraft had 2 wheels, side by side, so we weren't doomed. But no passenger knew about the problem until we were 15 minutes from landing in Florida. The pilot told us that the wheel fell off, and we had to do an emergency flyby. They had ambulances and firetrucks lining the runway, and as we landed, we pulled a really long wheely, keeping the only remaining front tire off the ground as long as possible."
"I am a commercial airline captain on a newish Embraer 175. Probably one of the scarier things I have had happen was when one of our cabin pressure control channels failed and we started to rapidly lose pressurization.
Pressurization is important because the air is so thin in the flight levels, specifically above 30,000'. The higher up you get the less 'time of useful consciousness' you have, down to about 30 seconds. So it is a pretty scary thought and it is a problem requiring immediate action, usually a steep emergency descent, during which you will not hear from the pilots because we are suuuuuuper busy.
Our pressure controller has two channels and automatically switches to the second if one fails. We were flying along about to start our descent and briefing our arrival and our ears started popping, like mad. I looked over and the pressurization was climbing very fast. We started a steep, but not quite emergency descent, while I flipped the pressurization switch to manual and then back to auto. This manually switched the channel to the working one and we could continue without problem.
Pretty sure all the passengers noticed were their ears popping. It gave us about 80 seconds of a scare though.
The funniest part was that when we landed our maintenance control wanted us to 'defer' the pressurization channel over the phone, meaning we will fix it later (generally a very safe way to get flights out on time with something minor or redundant broken). I told him I was going to have to insist that someone come over and actually look at the plane to say it was safe to fly."
"I used to fly a lot as a passenger for work - about 40 flights a year, almost half of those across the Atlantic. Experienced a lot of rough turbulence over the years but only two bad incidents.
First one pretty boring, pilot decided to fly into a thunderstorm near Kansas City, saw lightning forking through the clouds right next to the plane. One annoying lady wouldn't stop screaming.
Second incident, about 75-100 miles south of Greenland. Pilot made a sudden dramatic sharp right turn that tipped the contents of a drink cart on someone. To the left of the plane were two massive metallic spheres (less than a few hundred yards away), each one about the size of an aircraft carrier, they just sat there in the air at 35,000ft - had a really shiny sort of wet appearance. Flight attendants asked everyone to close the shutters, everyone had seen it though and 'what in the world' commenced for the next 30 minutes. That was about 8 or 9 years ago and I still wonder what the heck it was and how close we came to hitting them."
"I am an air traffic controller and have had my fair share of near collisions. Less than a week after I got certified, I had the closest call of my career...
It was the end of a swing shift on a Friday night with just myself and my watch supervisor. We were waiting for a formation flight to come in and land for the night. Near the end of the shift, we received inbound information on them and a few minutes later, they tagged up on radar, marked overhead and full stop.
For those who don't know: An overhead maneuver is a type of tactical approach very common in the military. It is basically a descending 360-degree turn that starts over the approach end of the runway at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,000 AGL.
Anyway, suddenly control called up with a medevac helicopter 15 miles northeast inbound with a critical casualty requesting transition through our airspace. Given the relation of my two aircraft and the position of the helicopter, I told the approach controller 'Transition approved, you guys can keep them on course, our aircraft are going to be on the ground in a minute.'
My aircraft begin their tactical maneuver to land and I give them their landing clearance. Not worried about the situation, I turned around and chatted with my supervisor about what we were doing that weekend. I glanced over and the first aircraft was turning his base-leg to land and assumed the second aircraft behind him would do so as well shortly.
Our conversation ended abruptly by the sound of our radar's PCAS(alarm), alerting us that a collision was imminent. I looked at the radar and the second aircraft and the helicopter were nose-to-nose, less than 1 mile apart, at the same altitude. I keyed up and gave a traffic alert to which I received a short pause, followed by a calm 'we see 'em.' The targets passed over one another with the indication of the same altitude, which means they came within 100 feet of one another. I learned 3 things from this incident:
First and foremost, never get distracted with chatter when you have aircraft you are responsible for.
Second, anticipate aircraft not conducting the maneuvers as usual, as the second plane did not.
Third, the medevac helicopter was going much faster than I anticipated. Typically, they fly around 80-90 knots, but this helicopter was traveling at about 140 knots so I anticipated the aircraft not being as close as he was, so basically, always look at the airspeed of a transition."
"I was flying a Cessna 310 just for fun to get a paint job one time. My friend who was a commercial pilot was in the right seat 'working' on some things to make me better. So I'm going right along having a great time. Everything's in the green, one passenger in the back (lady who was the owner and was picking the paint color and new interior), and just a beautiful day to fly. I'm scanning the sky just looking for traffic, birds, etc. All the sudden, directly to my left, a small dot becomes a rapidly increasing and closing aircraft, and I mean FAST!!! He's dead on my altitude and is going to absolutely SMASH us. I tell my friend and look back and notice that it's an A-10 Warthog!!! I'm not in a MOA (military operations area) so he shouldn't necessarily be there. Now I think he's going to light us up!! My pucker factor went exponential. I absolutely cannot possibly get out of his way. Think sailboat vs speedboat - we are dead, I know it and my friend knows it. The passenger in back is oblivious as she is deciding what color leather should match her new plane color. We have the cockpit 'turned off' to her so she can't hear us communicating. Back to the A-10. At THE last second he dives under us!!! I'm like, crap, we survived and he didn't shoot us or run into us. I think I crushed the yoke with my bare hands. Next thing is we are watching him climb like a homesick angel. He loops back and pulls right up freaking beside us, it felt like Blue Angels style. I'm thinking that was my warning and he's about to tell us to put this rig on the ground RIGHT NOW.
Then the coolest thing ever happened. I can see him plainly next to me. He opens his facemask, grins a big cheesy grin, gives me a big thumbs up, and then waves his wings at me. Now I've gone from peeing down my leg scared to TopGun. I put my hand on my aching heart and he laughs at me! He hits the throttle and leaves us. I finally figured out that he had been seeing us on radar for no telling how long and was probably on a practice intercept of 'enemy aircraft.'
I let my friend land the plane at our destination. I was just a bit rattled and he was significantly more experienced. The funniest thing is the passenger told me I did a great job and would highly recommend me. She had no idea we almost got shot, had a collision, and got escorted to the ground."
"Airline pilots generally inform passengers on a need-to-know basis. If there is a malfunction the passengers can't see, hear or smell and if it doesn't have an immediate effect on the flight it is best not to tell anything as it can only cause panic.
(1) The closest I've come to a disaster was almost a decade ago when during cruise the thrust reverser suddenly unlocked on engine 2. This was one of those near hypothetical failures we trained for in the simulator but you'd never expect to see in real life. We immediately pulled that engine back to idle because should it fully deploy on cruise power, the resulting motion could easily cause structural damage. After a short consult with maintenance we decided to leave engine number 2 running at low power, allowing us to continue the flight to our destination while not being at risk to overstress the airframe should it deploy. Shutting the engine down completely would have meant we had to divert to an alternate airport because the remaining engine can't provide enough power to generate the electricity, pressurization, and thrust required to continue to our destination at cruising altitude.
Passengers may have noticed a reduction in engine noise from the right-hand side of the aircraft and a slight delay, but apart from that, there was nothing that could indicate something was amiss.
(2) Piloting a small aircraft for a sightseeing flight with 3 passengers I once experienced an engine failure. This was partly self-inflicted and a valuable learning experience. 5 minutes in flight I saw the right fuel tank was empty. Because I've looked in the tanks before departure and as the indicators are far from reliable, I suspected instrument failure over a fuel leak. Letting go of the controls, the aircraft flew straight and level as you'd expect when having 2 equally filled tanks. Suddenly the engine stopped, the aircraft went completely silent and started to glide. Pushing the nose a bit to keep the propeller windmilling, I applied the emergency checklist from memory and the engine roared back to life. I told my passengers I had to shift gear, while they remained completely oblivious about what just happened. Back on the ground, we found that one of the 2 magneto's providing electricity to the spark plugs had failed."
"My Dad is a pilot and has had some interesting ones. The worst was when he was taking off from Manchester in a DanAir charter jet and there was a trainee air traffic controller on duty. Whatever caused him to do it I'm not sure, but he had accidentally sent my Dad's plane and a British Midlands jet in a straight course for each other. He got the message on the radio saying 'Descend immediately' and as they did so the British Midlands jet passed over them, filling up the entire windscreen. I don't think any of the passengers ever really knew what happened at the time due to the fact it was at the front of the aircraft but they very nearly collided.
Another time, he worked flying helicopters up in Aberdeen, and he was leaving the company and put in a request for extra hours in his last week to get some extra money before he left. However, when the roster came out he noticed his name wasn't there, and when he inquired it turns out they'd forgotten to put him on. Anyway, the next week one of the two helicopters they were operating had a gearbox failure and crashed into the hills. Both pilots and quite a few of the passengers died. If my Dad had got his extra roster hours there would have been a 50% chance of him flying that helicopter."
"I work for a major Australian airline. A small aircraft, Embraer Bandeirante, was calling inbound to the nearest metropolitan port (it's destination). I paid no attention to the call until I hear our ports name. I then got a direct call from the pilots letting me know they were making an unscheduled stop at our port.
I didn't think much of it, got ready on the tarmac with a ground power unit and waited.
In the distance (about two miles) I saw it beginning it's final approach, as it got closer I realised something was terribly wrong. At about 100 or so feet, maybe less, I realised it was flying on one engine. It taxied in and the passengers stumbled out none the wiser, all wondering why they were in our town, not their destination as all of them had been sleeping. They were followed closely by the pilot and first officer who were both visibly shaking and white as grandma's linen.
It turns out the fuel gauge on this particular aircraft was faulty, and while they had flown the originating sector had not realised the aircraft's fuel requirements. One engine ran dry, the other side had 10 pounds drained.
I don't know their fate, but I'd say they lost their jobs."
"I went to an aeronautical university, the majority of students were either aerospace engineers or pilots.
My boyfriend is an engineer and our good friend is a pilot.
Pilot friend offered to fly the three of us to a large city an hour away. We flew in, ate some Waffle House, and started flying home. My boyfriend was in front, next to the pilot, and I was in the back.
We were just coming over some large mountains when the Air Traffic Control lets us know the winds are crazy strong down on the flight line. Our pilot hadn't been cleared to land, so we flew in circles until we started to run low on fuel.
The pilot has one of his instructors on the radio, and they decide he can land even though he doesn't have that qualification.
We prepare for landing. The wind casually bats the plane sideways. We're swaying back and forth by the struggle between wind and pilot. Finally, touch down and land safely.
I was taking a nap the whole time. After we land, my friend talked about how scared he was."
"I was flying the SR-71 out of RAF Mildenhall, England , with my back-seater, Walt Watson; we were returning from a mission over Europe and the Iron Curtain when we received a radio transmission from home base. As we scooted across Denmark in three minutes, we learned that a small RAF base in the English countryside had requested an SR-71 fly-past. The air cadet commander there was a former Blackbird pilot, and thought it would be a motivating moment for the young lads to see the mighty SR-71 perform a low approach. No problem, we were happy to do it. After a quick aerial refueling over the North Sea , we proceeded to find the small airfield.
Walter had a myriad of sophisticated navigation equipment in the back seat, and began to vector me toward the field. Descending to subsonic speeds, we found ourselves over a densely wooded area in a slight haze. Like most former WWII British airfields, the one we were looking for had a small tower and little surrounding infrastructure. Walter told me we were close and that I should be able to see the field, but I saw nothing.
Nothing but trees as far as I could see in the haze. We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt said we were practically over the field---yet; there was nothing in my windscreen. I banked the jet and started a gentle circling maneuver in hopes of picking up anything that looked like a field. Meanwhile, below, the cadet commander had taken the cadets up on the catwalk of the tower in order to get a prime view of the fly-past. It was a quiet, still day with no wind and partial gray overcast.
Walter continued to give me indications that the field should be below us but in the overcast and haze, I couldn't see it.. The longer we continued to peer out the window and circle, the slower we got. With our power back, the awaiting cadets heard nothing. I must have had good instructors in my flying career, as something told me I better cross-check the gauges. As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward. At this point we weren't really flying, but were falling in a slight bank. Just at the moment that both afterburners lit with a thunderous roar of flame (and what a joyous feeling that was) the aircraft fell into full view of the shocked observers on the tower...
Shattering the still quiet of that morning, they now had 107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass. Quickly reaching the field boundary, we proceeded back to Mildenhall without incident. We didn't say a word for those next 14 minutes.
After landing, our commander greeted us, and we were both certain he was reaching for our wings. Instead, he heartily shook our hands and said the commander had told him it was the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen, especially how we had surprised them with such a precise maneuver that could only be described as breathtaking. He said that some of the cadet's hats were blown off and the sight of the plan form of the plane in full afterburner dropping right in front of them was unbelievable. Walt and I both understood the concept of 'breathtaking' very well that morning, and sheepishly replied that they were just excited to see our low approach.
As we retired to the equipment room to change from space suits to flight suits, we just sat there-we hadn't spoken a word since 'the pass.' Finally, Walter looked at me and said, 'One hundred fifty-six knots. What did you see?' Trying to find my voice, I stammered, 'One hundred fifty-two.' We sat in silence for a moment. Then Walt said, 'Don't ever do that to me again!' And I never did.
A year later, Walter and I were having lunch in the Mildenhall Officer's club, and overheard an officer talking to some cadets about an SR-71 fly-past that he had seen one day. Of course, by now the story included kids falling off the tower and screaming as the heat of the jet singed their eyebrows. Noticing our HABU patches, as we stood there with lunch trays in our hands, he asked us to verify to the cadets that such a thing had occurred. Walt just shook his head and said, 'It was probably just a routine low approach; they're pretty impressive in that plane.' Impressive indeed."