Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Failed Wheel Flaps and Quick Landings


I've spent a lifetime learning to take moments one by one and to truly appreciate every single one of them. I've learned that its the unexpected happenings and the things which challenge us the very most, that are the very things that also carry the most opportunity for growth and change.

I've learned to make the most of constant chaos, and a lot of repetitiveness of lessons not quite learned; and so, when unexpected things happen now, I almost do expect them. Not, in some horrible negative way....but just as how things can be and how in the deepest sense (known to many of us who have faced trauma and chaos) that the short pattern to spiritual understandings is often the fast path of earthly occurrences.

I'd warned everyone that for whatever reason, if things can go wrong at airports and airplanes they do with me...not as a self-fulfilling prophecy.... but because I learn so much from all of those experiences that perhaps they just help t shorten my path to enlightenment, even more rapidly. My last flight up, I'd been taken off three separate airplanes for failed instrument lights and put on other, also failed instrument panel airplanes! My simple 5 1/2 hour trip ended up taking me over 15 hours. So, I always warn family that don't be surprised if I don't call as early as you expect. Things just seem to happen when I'm involved!

As I left my beloved Alaska, tears in my eyes, parents sitting there next to one of my brothers in the waiting area, I expected my usual security gaffs as tiny metal objects set off hyper sensitive systems with the knowledge that I, myself, am just a hyper sensitive system of another type ;)

As we flew over Alaska, then Canada, and then in view of Seattle, I could see the mountains, the valleys, the rivers and the beautiful islands...but I could also see the Space Needle and downtown Seattle quickly fade from site. I knew we were not circling back and something had to be very wrong.

After more than an hour of additional air time and no announcement from pilot, co-pilot or attendants, I knew for a fact that something had to be wrong! Eventually, the pilot announces...

"By now, you've probably figured out that things aren't going quite as planned up here. We're having some difficulties getting our wheel flaps down. You've had a tour of south Seattle while we decided what we should do and we have determined that we will begin descent now. We are expecting a normal landing, but we will be coming in at a much faster speed of descent then most of you are used to. Please be sure there are no loose objects anywhere around you and that your seat belts are securely fastened. Also, we will be met by fire trucks as an additional precaution. Thank you for your patience."

Our patience???? OK. Time to go into my center, seek a place of calm, reflect on my entire life, and ponder life and death and the meaning of both, and pray an awful lot all at once ;) " A faster rate of descent than most of you are used to" translates as a huge roaring sound, very intense airplane vibration, your stomach going up into your mouth and your hands gripping the armrests and absolutely, total silence in the entire plane. I think we were too scared to spit, much less talk!

Needless to say, we landed safely and to the total applause of the passengers. The sight of 4 fire trucks and a Fire Marshall meeting our plane on the ground certainly added a bit to the drama of failed wheel flaps and quick landings!!!!

7 comments:

  1. How ab.so.lute.ly terrifying!
    I am a lurker on your site and don't comment very often. I have however been reading your blog for while now and have really enjoyed your trip back home....what a sweet memory to have..and what a good daughter you are.

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  2. Thank you for your insights and reflections about your month in Alaska. The scenery as always is beautiful. Your thoughts about your mother's illness are painful to share. The subject of global warming is one I want to close my eyes to but know I can't. The story of the heart stopping landing in Seattle brought back memories of one I once had. Your writing about everything is as always superb. Thank you.

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  3. Michele, I am still so moved by your entry from yesterday. I just sat quietly and thanked God for the relative good health of my own family. I will think of you often again today and now add my thanks that you made it in one piece. Sending you sweet thoughts and prayers. You're an amazing woman Michele. It's an honor to know you.

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  4. I'm hopeful that your heart rate and blood pressure are returning to normal after that most scary experience... blessings to you as you adjust to being home, while part of you remains with your parents...

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  5. It would be hard to leave your parents, but I imagine it would be even harder knowing you'll have some kind of airport adventure, not knowing what it is. I'm glad you made it through.

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  6. Whew! I've endured a landing that involved g-forces caused by braking. But this one sounded absolutely terrifying. Part of you is still up in Alaska isn't it? It is hard to be so torn on where you need to be.

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  7. So glad you landed safely. That would be very scary. Seattle always looks so neat from the air, on the rare occasion when there are no clouds.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.