Not floating on air

THE headline read, ‘Couple’s Terror as Ryanair Plunges 20,000 Feet.’ Scary no doubt but there was loss of cabin pressure and procedures were followed.

There was no danger to passengers or crew. Stuff happens.

Passenger Melvin Frater, travelling between Milan and East Midlands Airport, described the incident: ‘I thought our number was up,’ he told Britain’s Daily Mirror.

‘It was quite strange that, unlike the scenes of panic and screaming, which accompany cinema portrayals of such situations, there was initially a real sense of calm and quiet.’

I put this down to the speed and rapid recovery of the situation. In my experience movie producers are not that far off the mark.

Mine was an experience neither I nor fellow passengers wish repeated. Flying Murcia San Javier to Liverpool we checked in and in the confines of the terminal had not taken too much notice of the weather.

We made it to the waiting aircraft’s steps just in time.

Those raindrops were thimble sized and in the gathering dusk the skies looked menacing to say the least. The sense of relief in settling into our seats wasn’t to last long.

Soon after becoming airborne we experienced the weightlessness you get when falling for that is exactly that we were doing.

We had hit extreme turbulence.

No longer floating on air the aircraft had entered a meteorological vacuum; there was no air in the atmosphere to hold it up.

The effect is similar to being in a lift when the cables snap.

Only the pilots know how far the aircraft repeatedly plummeted; each time it seemed that recovery was unlikely.

Every time the aircraft hit a pocket of air an ear-splitting bang followed; the shock is beyond belief.

It was as though some supra-natural Goliath was kicking the aircraft as a footballer would kick a ball. Air like water is hard when an aircraft ‘belly-flops.’

When seaplanes land on water they do so at less than 70mph; otherwise the effect is that of landing on concrete. For what seemed to be twenty-minutes the aircraft was thrown around the heavens.

I would describe it as like being inside a football roughly kicked between players.

As a regular flier I am used to turbulence but this was far from anything I had experienced; other passengers, more experienced agreed. Each of those thunderclap explosions were followed by jarring crashes as the falling aircraft met pockets of air.

We expected the plane would disintegrate under the force of the repeated shocks. Never doubt the strength of an airliner’s tail and wings.

It was a terrifying experience but being what I am I couldn’t help but take in passengers reactions.

I generalise but many of the women were screaming each time the aircraft hit an air pocket, some were crying.

Children mimicked whoever they were with. Equally ashen the men, some with eyes closed, gripped their arm rests and through clenched teeth prayed. I was one of them.

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