Pilots reveal the terrifying experiences on planes that passengers don't know about
Even for the calmest flyers among us, getting on a plane can be an unnerving experience. If you do it regularly, or you are one of those who can pass the time by having a nap, it can be a breeze. Yet when you really think about it, you are a group of people cramped into a metal container, hurtling through the sky. Putting your trust in the system and the pilots on board is something you have to do, as well as reminding yourself that flights take off and land successfully every day.
We never know what is going on in the cockpit, so there must be some things going wrong in there we don't hear about, right? One Redditor had the bright idea of asking pilots to comment on their experiences behind those doors, specifically the moments where they were scared out of their minds.
1. Near-fatal mistake
"We almost crashed coming into O’Hare. The copilot was pretty inexperienced and tried to touch down during an insanely fast moving crosswind. He should have circled around again. I was seated in the back of the plane. Both passengers next to me had a death grip on my hand or knee. Was covered in bruises. I’ve never seen a pilot so pissed off. He was cussing out the copilot the whole way to the hotel." - lafleurcynique
2. A tense journey
"I'm a Flight Attendant on small 50 passenger planes (CRJ100/200's). When there was about 40 minutes left in the flight, I get a call from the flight deck that they have an indicator reading that my passenger door is not locked. So I double check the physical deadbolt indicators on the door and two out of the eight indicators were a little misaligned. So to be safe, I stopped service and sat down for the rest of the flight, directly next to the door praying that it was an issue with the indicator up in the flight deck. I'm sure that my face was flushed for a little bit.
"For the rest of the 40 minute flight, I was cracking down on every person that attempted to stand up and every seatbelt that I heard being undone. I didn't want any unlucky people being sucked out if the door happened to suddenly fly open.
"People started getting annoyed and started asking questions why the seatbelt sign has been on for so long, and I just told them that the pilots think there might be some major turbulence soon. Thankfully all was well and we landed with no issue. A few people getting off the plane were telling me how terrible the experience was and how badly they had to go to the bathroom and I wouldn't let them. If only they knew....C'est la vie" - Nitropig
3. Sparks are flying
"As we're climbing through 500' I see a bright shower of sparks from the right engine. Passengers start gasping and talking. My first officer kinda freezes up. I say, 'turn back.' He starts to turn the airplane the opposite direction of what we had briefed in case of an emergency situation.
"I say, 'I have the controls' and take over, and turn us on a right downwind. I tell him to tell air traffic control we need to return immediately. I turn the alternator off but the sparks are still flying. The engine is running fine though. We were only in the air for a couple minutes, but the adrenaline was high for sure. Seeing sparks flying from the front of your engine is never a good thing. I was glad it was just the alternator though because it didn't cause any power loss.
"Turns out one of the mechanics that put the engine back together after an inspection forgot to tighten the alternator wire bundle down completely, resulting in loose wires contacting eachother." - TangoFoxtrotSierra
4. Sweaty palms
"Couple years back I was flying an instrument approach down to Melbourne, Florida. I forget the name of the approach exactly but we were supposed to circle to 09R. Coming down ATC hits us up about a storm cell thats making its way to the field and asks if we still want to continue the approach. Anyone familiar with Florida in the summer knows these types of storms arent exactly rare.
"SIC and I figure we can beat it in (we could see it painted on our radar) so we continue. About 600ft above minimums it has become VERY clear that its moving faster than both we and ATC thought. Not 5 secs later ATC hits us up again to tell us just this and mentions the winds have flipped.
"We ask if we can just circle to 27L instead which he approves. We get in the thick of it and barely broke out of the clouds above minimums before touching down into a wall of rain after battling some of the craziest winds I have flown in to date. Palms were definitely sweaty after that one." - DemHooksOP
5. A swift descent
"Shortly after passing the outer marker and fully configured for landing, we get a warning for a decreasing performance wind-shear ahead. I immediately execute the wind-shear escape procedure we train for every year applying full power and pitching the nose up to the flight director which is now in 'wind-shear guidance mode'. I feel a momentary increase in climb performance followed almost immediately by a nearly instantaneous 35-40 knot loss in airspeed...i dump the nose over as the Pitch Limit Indicator now appears on my attitude indicator and moves below the flight director warning that the angle of attack is approaching a stall.
"I hear the GPWS automated voice announce '1000' telling me the plane has descended past 1000 feet above the ground. At that point the captain, who was the pilot not flying, begins to call out the vertical speed of the aircraft per company procedure....'1200 feet per minute DOWN'. Every time the the aircrafts automated voice called out the altitude as it continued to decrease: '900'...'1000 down' ...'800'...'1000 down'...'700'.
"We were at maximum thrust and the aircraft was still descending...with ground contact imminent, procedure call for pitching up into the PLI and riding the stick shaker/stall...i held that pitch attitude until the aircraft stopped descending...we got down to the 200 foot above the ground call on the ground proximity warning system before the decent stopped and we slowly began to climb, all while ridding one hell of a rollercoaster....i never saw the ground...nor did i ever hear the autopilot disconnect siren blaring due to sensory exclusion in my brain
"I have landed in a tropical storm, i have had engine failures, and fires....but that time more than any other scared the shot out of me. I had to take a walk around the terminal in Manchester for 20 min or so to get my legs to stop shaking." - Tossthisaway505
Honestly, I'm glad I don't have any holidays abroad lined up over the next year, since some of these have put the fear of flying into me. Hopefully those of you taking flights in the near future will remind yourselves that these are rare cases, and you may not even realise anything is wrong in the first place.