The Day I Crashed a Commerical Flight without Even Trying

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Day I Crashed a Commercial Flight without Even Trying

I bet the main reason the police keep people away from a plane crash is they don’t want anybody walking in and lying down in the crash stuff, then, when somebody comes up, act like they just woke up and go, ‘What was THAT?!’” -Jack Handy

I would like to start off by stating that I had absolutely no business being in the pilot’s seat that day.  Others that were present may claim that I offered to take the stick.  However, when all was said and done, I was woefully unprepared for the responsibility of landing a Boeing 747.  I hadn’t completed the necessary training and I shouldn’t have been put in charge of such an unwieldy airplane.

Granted, I had seen others in my class land the same plane with much greater success.   I was still quite overwhelmed by the cockpit.  I was just one young student trying to comprehend the sheer volume of all the controls that were in front of me.  Until you actually sit in the cockpit of such a large plane and have the hundreds of lights and switches stare you down, you don’t really grasp how complex the process is.  I had undergone instruction and I had been witness to other successful landings.  Still, as the man over my shoulder offered direction and navigational updates, I knew I was in over my head.  In hindsight, I probably should have leapt away from the pilot’s seat and asked for someone more experienced to take over before things went horribly out of control.  But I didn’t.

ImageIt started off well enough.  The plane appeared to respond kindly to my touch.  The views that flew by in the cockpit window were pleasant.  There were no blue skies or puffy clouds to admire since the instructor had chosen a night flight for me.  Mostly, I was greeted with a black sky with the world beneath me glowing happily in a vast array of tiny lights.  I’m sure that each light beneath me represented a building full of hope and happiness for the people on the ground.  If only they’d known.

It wasn’t long until my instructor tried to coach me in the art of landing.  He pointed me towards the landing strip.  I had a hard time trying to make out where I was supposed to go.  The constellations of lights on the ground confused me and it took me a while to find the series of parallel lines that he pointed me towards.  I didn’t have a headset on, so I was not in communication with any tower personnel.  The instructor pointed to the ground and tried to offer helpful suggestions.

My first approach was a mess.  My aim was off, my speed was somewhat reasonable, but my angle was all wrong.  I pulled up faster than I should have and went for a missed approach.  I agonized over how long it took this lumbering giant to climb back up and turn around in air.  Again, I felt the pressure to control such an expensive and complicated behemoth.  It was about then that I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get the plane on the ground like I was supposed to.  It was at that moment that I should have walked away and let someone else take the stick.  But I was young, eager for a win, and foolish.

The second approach was a flat out disaster.  My hands gripped the wheel firmly, but out of fear, not confidence.  Had I fully appreciated what I was about to do, I’m sure rivers of sweat would have trickled down my forehead.  Either way, I came in too fast.  The instructor did his best to remain calm, but I was frustrated and wasn’t used to the controls.  I’m not trying to excuse my actions.  Still, someone should have stopped me. 

I barreled towards the ground.  The instructor started to realize this was not going to end well.  He told me my angle was off.  I grew more frustrated, but did not change course.  I tried to raise the nose of the plane, but I overcompensated.  The instructor suggested strongly that I pull up and go for another missed approach.  That was it for me.

I took the stick, shoved it forward, and watched the plane rush to meet the ground.  The instructor tried to get me to change my mind.  At the last minute, I forced the stick to the side and watched the plane immediately veer of course.  Gone was the view of strip lights or any landing facilities. Instead, the darkness of water below came into view and at a thirty degree angle, the enormous commercial plane crashed into the ocean. 

The instructor, not as shaken as I thought he should be, reinforced what I had suspected.  “Well, you just crashed a 747 and killed three hundred and twenty-eight people.”  He told me the cost of the plane, but my mind has blocked out the figure over the years.  I, as a pilot, was a failure.  To be fair, it was my first lesson.  And I was only a junior high student.

There were other students who had landed just fine.  They had a few bumps, but at least they had gotten the tires to touch the tarmac.  My crash was by far the most spectacular, though I couldn’t bring myself to brag about my failure.  The instructor tried to give me some post-flight advice, but I was done being a pilot.  He flipped a few switches and the simulator began to adjust itself.  I stepped out of the large white box and watched as the massive hydraulics reset and repositioned the replicated cockpit back to its default setting.  I’d like to think that I would do better now that I’m older and wiser, but I have never been back to the Boeing Factory.  That one junior high field trip was enough flight experience for me.  I’m sure the three hundred and twenty-eight imaginary passengers and their loved ones are relieved that their lives are no longer in my hands.


About Cosand
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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