Without further adieux, let’s get right back to why Grumpy has an aversion to commercial airplane flight. Today I present to you four landings that had the hair on the back of my neck standing at attention. If you are one that has a colossal fear of flight then you are forewarned: these stories will purge the bee-gee-bees right out of your system.
Case #3: Buffeting a Thunderstorm Over Buffalo Really Blows
Alright, you heard the story of the aborted landing in the Bahamas and how Grumpy decided that he might make that marathon swim to Florida. Well, truth be told, the return flight to Canada turned out to be just as traumatic as the old guy’s previous near death experience.
Grumpy and his buddy Fred made sure that they were well lubricated prior to this trip home. Of course, this falls within Grumpy’s rule that you should never drink and drive but that you should always drink and fly.
We were flying back to Toronto in a circa 1980’s – 727 – which, for all intents and purposes, is about the size of a little yellow school bus. As we approached Buffalo there just happened to be a thunderstorm between us and good old Pearson Airport.
Our glide path and descent would take us through the heart and soul of that storm. The Fasten Seat Belt flashed on, and little did we know that we were about to ride the biggest freaking rollercoaster at Canada’s Wonderland. I think they call that one, “The Diaper Filler!”
The turbulence was dramatic as the thunder boomed and the lightning flashed through those small portal windows. Old Grumpy’s stomach had moved just somewhere south of his Adam’s apple. Thoughts of an uncontrollable bowel movement danced in his head.
And then . . . it happened!
The turbulence became so violent, and so strong, that I had to close my eyes. Everything was moving up and down and to and fro so quickly that dizzy would have been preferred over the total vertigo I felt. Screams erupted that sounded like a thousand sirens in the night. Mine was the longest and loudest and the highest pitched.
“We’re all going to die!” I screamed. However, because my vocal cords were paralyzed it sounded more like, “EEEEEEE! Hhhhiiiiiiisssss shrrrrupp deeeed!” And, it was more like a whisper!
Then, as if the elevator cable snapped, there was a sudden drop that had the carry-on compartments flying open. Suddenly, cloths and bags descended upon us like hailstones. If you’ve seen the recent movie “Flight” you know exactly where I’m coming from.
Unexpectedly, I had a stewardess staring deep into my eyes. It was like one of those climactic moments in a movie. Was she there to console me and give me comfort? Was it love at first sight?
No, because there she was on her hands and knees in the aisle. Her ankles were wedged under the seats in front of me. Her hands clutched the legs on the seat I sat in. Her pose was rather undignified to say the least.
But, like an Oscar nominated movie actress, she batted her long eyelashes, smiled and spoke these words of reassurance I shall never forget.
A half an hour later, the captain stood in the aisle as we exited his plane. His hand was extended; his face was as white as a ghost, but he as smiling. Well it was more like smirking, really. I’m sure he came out of his cabin to see if anyone needed resuscitation or, at the very least, needed the reissue of a second puke bag.
For me, I could hardly wait until I got to my luggage so I could change my underwear
And, guess what?
As Grumpy waddled to customs, he swore again to never ever step on an airplane.
Ya right, Grumpy. We’ve been there too many times before.
Case #4 Bucking Bronkos in Calgary are not all found at the Stampede
A year ago September, my daughter – the Smurf – and I flew out to Calgary. We were going to help the oldest son and his wife pack up and U-Haul it back to Ontario. Really, the whole experience of a cross Canada adventure was amazing.
But, we are concerning ourselves with flight here, so we’ll leave that to another time. If you’d like to view a video of our trip home you can click the link and go to YouTube. Dolly the Dog took us on a great road trip adventure.
DOLLY’S ADVENTURE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFKov554QQE
You can also view our near death experience on the Chi-Chi-Mon here.
Anyhow, as we descended into Calgary under bright skies, I couldn’t help but think a Buffalo thunderstorm was somewhere in the vicinity. You see we were being buffeted with light turbulence.
I could see the beautiful Calgary skyline, the Bow River and the pristine Rocky Mountain vistas to the West. But, the more we descended the greater the turbulence became. It was like riding in a speed boat across the wake of 100 other speedboats.
In fact, as we made our final approach the wings were going up and down at regular intervals. I fully believed that one of them would strike the runway and that would be all she wrote.
The plane swayed sideways, this way and that. It was if the pilot was impaired or something because, back in the day, I remember cruising into my driveway much the same way. Really, it was if we were about to land on an aircraft carrier in rough seas.
Well, no worries, because, we made it down safely with barf bags in hand.
My eldest son, upon hearing about our landing remarked, “Oh, Dad, Calgary landings are notoriously rough because of the effects of the winds from the mountains. You’re landing was quite typical!”
Undeniably, my first born was dead right, because Grumpy truly got Chinooked on that landing. He has the skid marks to prove it!
GRUMPY’S ADVICE: Consume massive quantities of your preferred beverage before you land in Calgary, or as already noted, before you take off in Las Vegas.
Case #5 Grounded in Detroit and Invaded by Grease Monkeys
A way back when our kids were kiddies, we were returning from Florida on flight that dropped us in Detroit before boarding another plane to Toronto.
Upon our Detroit landing it was announced that our Toronto flight would be delayed while our lane was checked for, “Mechanical Difficulties.”
These are words you do not speak to Grumpy when he is flying because he equates them with his oft screamed lament, “We’re all going to die!”
Why airports place big windows in their terminal is a mystery to me. We watched two grease monkeys, who had the demeanor of Bob and Doug McKenzie, perched on a mechanical lift as they inspected the tail section of our plane!
They were passing adjustable wenches and vice-grips around as if they were brain surgeons even though they were dressed in greasy overalls and wore reversed ball caps. The two dudes were looking in a small door that they opened on the tail section. They were dropping tools left right and centre.
I could see they were shaking their heads. I imagined their conversation went something like this.
“Hey, Bubba, waddya thinks wrong with the dang plane?”
“Don’t rightly know, Pete, but do you wanna go fer beers after our shift?”
“Naw, I’m a little hung over from last night, Bubba. I didn’t git home til 6 am! Besides, I’m a little stoned right now!”
“No problem, Pete, I’m up for pizza!”
The take-off after that little incident went without a problem. However, Grumpy couldn’t help but believe that beer he was sipping over Lake St. Clair was the last one he’d ever drink.
Case #6: Landing in Vancouver Can Be Like Extreme Waterskiing or Like Stunt Flying
Grumpy has had the pleasure of landing in Vancouver on two separate occasions. Neither landing was eventful but Grumpy will tell you that each landing had its moment of, “What the hell is this?”
On his first flight from Toronto to Vancouver the plane took the ocean route to the runway. This has the plane descend and zip across the waters of the bay barely above the waves. Because there is no front window you can look through, that water starts coming up at you fairly fast; so fast that you almost wonder if you are on an Air Canada sea plane. Indeed, Grumpy wondered if he was about to grab his seat cushion and swim to the mainland.
The only thing telling him the landing was successful was the thunk of the wheels on the tarmac. No matter, Grumpy, had said his prayers well before that, seeing as his hands had crumpled the arm rests into dust.
Then later, there was a landing in Vancouver on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska. Really, that was a beautiful flight, given the mountains, glaciers and ocean views duly provided by a clear blue sky. Grumpy was so relaxed he’ almost forgot he about his aversion to landings.
No matter, all was well and good.
He could actually see the airport far below.
But, unexpectedly, the plane banked away to the East and the next thing Grumpy knew was that the aircraft was headed straight for the mountains. Those peaks got closer and closer and closer, almost too close for Grumpy’s liking. Grumpy thought that maybe there was a change in plans and the plane was flying straight to Toronto. Grumpy also had visions of a plane slamming into a mountainside!
But, nay, nay, my friends, that was not in the cards on this flight.
In a flight maneuver not often seen except from fighter pilots, that plane turned on a dime in a short but sweeping bank to the East, and began its descent to the airport. That turn was the most majestic flight experience Grumpy has ever had. It took mere seconds to be completed and it was a smooth as silk.
Imagine Grump’s surprise when he exited the plane and saw that both the pilot and the co-pilot were female. All that he could think about was, “Thank God their names weren’t Thelma and Louise”, although the pilot did kind of look like Susan Sarandon.
You will recall how a friend of mine has an Uncle who flies as a pilot fo Air Canada. Well, back in the 80’s he tells of a time when he an his co-opilot fell asleep at the wheel on their approach to Vancouver. Seems as if when they woke up they were quite a ways out over the Pacific. I’m sure the passengers were unaware of what had taken place other than that the blue sky extended right down below them. But, it always makes we wonder what is going on behind that closed door up there in the cockpit. Or maybe, when I think about it, I really don’t want to know?
Anyway, there you have it: Grumpy’s aversion to flight explained. But there is one more flight frustration Grumpy would like to discuss before all is said and done: AIRPORT SECURITY. He has set off more alarms than a smoke-detector in a barbecue pit restaurant.
Until then – Stay classy!