October 13, 2012
"Cabin crew take your seats for landing," announced the purser. The crew had just prepared the cabin for crash landing as advised by the Captain. This was due to a defective nose gear (front wheel).
An inoperational nose gear means that the aircraft has to land on the main gear (hind wheels) and crash the belly on the ground, which could lead to an explosion. Hence the Captain of the flight was circling the aircraft mid-air to empty the fuel, so as to avoid a major blast when landing. All passengers had their seatbelts fastened and were already advised on the emergency procedures by the Cabin Crew.
The Crew were now seated in their respective seats and were mentally preparing for the most important day in their life. Flight emergencies rarely occur, but when it does happen in your presence, your life starts going backwards. You start seeing the faces of loved ones flash in front of your eyes.
This was also an important day for a young man named Chris who was seated on 10A near the window. He was travelling to New Jersey to see his sick father.
He looked to his right and could see the nervous faces of passengers, most of them with their eyes closed and some of them shivering. Chris was nervous too, even though he had faced death once in life.
It happened when he was about 10 years old and was on a vacation in Thailand with his parents. He left his sun-bathing parents and went into the sea. His mother cautioned him not to go far away from the shore. Chris being an obedient boy stayed at a level where his feet touched the ground.
The waves were relatively calm that day hence no one really paid attention. But unfortunately the waves slowly became aggressive, dragging him away from the shore. He tried to yell but could not capture anybody's attention and he couldnt feel the sand under his feet. The water entered his mouth and he couldnt breathe.
But destiny had other plans. A large wave rose from nowhere and pushed Chris to the shore with its mighty force. He rested on the shore for a while trying to regain his breath. He later went back to his parents but didnt share the incident with them or his freedom to move around would be cut short.
Chris survived that day but this day was diferent. On this day death was lurking over his shoulder.
He looked outside through the window, and saw the terrains way down below. Crashing there would be sure death for everybody on board. But what could he do? well what could anybody do? It was upto the pilots to bring the bird down slowly and steadily and try saving everybody. Well, this could be the only hope of all passengers and crew on board.
At that moment Chris remembered his father. Since his parents divorced when he was 12, he hardly spoke to his father. He lived with his mother ever since the court gave his mother his custody.
His father always had a drinking problem, but he never abused Chris. He loved his son dearly.
This may be the only reason why Chris thought of visiting him, when he was informed of his father's struggle with the final stage of cancer.
The plane started moving swiftly reducing altitude over the distance covered. The rapid movement of the aircraft swaying left and then suddenly to the right evoked loud noises in the cabin. Passengers were screaming as loud as possible. A lady in her fifties sitting next to Chris was all in tears screaming "God help Us, God help us".
She made him more nervous and he started sweating.
The aircraft was now 200 ft above the ground, and the Captain announced "Brace, Brace". All the crew started yelling "Brace... Brace....Brace....Brace". (Brace is a method of positioning one's body so as to minimise injuries)
All the passengers including Chris immediately bent forward, to avoid the impact of a hard landing. Chris closed his eyes not to see what was coming. This was his chidhood habit of avoiding the fear factor. He would always close his eyes when sitting on a Rollercoaster or a Giant Wheel. But this was not the fear of the giant wheel, this was the fear of losing his life.
Close to the runway, emergency fire fighting vehicles, and ambulances waited readily.
Reporters from a local news channel were already present to scoop up the latest breaking news.
The aircraft landed with a thud that shook its entire body. The loud noise almost deafened the noise from the screaming passengers.
The pilots were trying to put more stress on the main gear, so as to bring the aircraft belly down smoothly. It was a dangerous strategy, but that was the only available strategy. The wheels screeched and sparks flew out.
Inside the cabin, the cries of passengers could be faintly heard. They were only hoping not to die.
The plane charged ahead for a few more metres until the belly hit the tarmac. The impact was heavy, and all the overhead lockers opened with bags falling out of it. The noise of the aircraft belly rubbing against the tarmac was very loud.
The screeching sound became more intense and sparks flew rapidly. The aircraft was moving really fast even after the flaps were opened and breaks were applied.
A few more metres of dragging and the aircraft finally halted. Inside the cabin all were silent for a moment. Some passengers had vomitted on each other, while some had cried till their eyes were deprived of all tears, and some of them had screamed till their throats were hoarse.
But at this moment, reality was in front of them and all were silent. They had survived the landing. Within a couple of seconds there was loud clapping, and all were smiling, now that they survived. But it was not over yet. Nobody knew, that there could be a chance of a fire or explosion.
The crew opened all doors to evacuate the passengers. Everybody was trying to jump over each other to get out out of the aircraft. Chris was shivering and was cold and was still in his seat. He knew behind all the fear that had blanketed him, he would survive to see his ailing father.
The crew yelled at him to get out as soon as possible.
He came out last, and was followed by the crew and the pilots. All of them were ushered away from the aircraft and fire fighting vehicles came closer to the aircraft.
Chris looked back at the battered aircraft and smiled. He had just overcome death to see his father who was in the jaws of death. And death had indeed lost that day.
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