Friday, April 24, 2009

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Emergency Landing AF1438

AF1438 24APR09 Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG) to Vienna, Austria (VIE) 9:35a 11:35a 320 F-GFKD

Flight Time: 1:30
Seat Map

We are preparing for an emergency landing. Not sure what is the cause of it...11:38a on our way to Vienna on Air France.

I was a little taken aback at first and wondered if it was all real. After 15 years of constant flying, this is my first emergency landing preparation. I've had an aborted takeoff on a Boeing 757-200, two aborted landings (a Boeing 727-200 and a Lockheed L-1011) and three diversions (Boeing 747-400, Boeing 737-500 and a MD-80), but never the big one. "Was this it?" I thought.

The lead female flight attendant read the emergency procedures in French from a card while the other two male flight attendants ensured that we were buckled in and that the aisles were clear. There were no English translations, but I muddled through what she said and also watched what the others were doing.

The lead flight attendant read the details of the position we had to adapt when she gave the "brace" command once we landed. I think this piece of information brought it home that this really was happening and it was serious. I looked around as the passengers did as instructed in a practice run.

We were then told to get out our coats from the overheads and don them so we all did. I assume that this was just in case we had to use the slides as it was cold out. Everyone complied quite orderly indeed. No one panicked at all.

Although, there was one passenger who had the overhead open and his case on his seat and was fumbling around. The lead flight attendant tried unsuccessfully to get him to sit. Eventually, once he got all the stuff he wanted he closed the bin and sat down.

I made sure that our onward tickets were in my pocket as well as that I had my Flip video and mobile handy to record whatever happened as much as I could.

We all then waited. You could hear a pin drop in the cabin. I had put my computer bag up in the bin from by my feet, but had re-retrieved it, thinking I could just take it with me when we exited the plane via the slides. Which by now the flight attendant had advised were ready for us. Silly I know, but my mind was racing and for a moment I was not thinking clearly.

We were not told what was the nature of the emergency, just that we had to prepare for one. At least, if we were it was in French and I did not comprehend. I know some French, but I'm not that good at it.

I looked around the cabin and noticed that there was no obvious sign of smoke in the cabin, the oxygen masks were not deployed either. I looked out the window and the wing seemed fine as did the engine hanging off of it. My mind raced as to what could be so serious as to declare an emergency landing. I relaxed a bit knowing that the pilots knew what they were doing.

Then I thought back to our departure in Paris. The airplane had arrived late at the gate from its previous journey. I did notice a mechanic checking out the nose gear and at the time had wondered what was going on. Could it be that the landing gear indicator light came on? Which meant that the gear would not lock when activated? Who knows.

I could not help but think that I'd lived the life I pretty much wanted and if it ended in a few minutes, I'd have no regrets. I also could not help thinking that the plane would be destroyed; this aircraft was rare as it is an A320 without winglets. Yes, I get silly at times :-). I also thought what a cool headline our demise would make. Morbid, yes, but...whatever.

Well, we started our descent and it was all normal, the flaps were deployed, we descended properly and orderly, we touched down fine and we decelerated properly and came in for a very smooth landing. Thankfully, the brace command was never given.

Roaring applause erupted from the cabin as we looked around at each other wondering why we were not piled up an in an aircraft wreckage off the runway somewhere. The awe and relief was pretty evident.

Outside the window, were fire trucks waiting to move into action if necessary.
We slowed down and exited the runway and headed for a hard stand. The fire trucks, etc. followed us as we did. There was a bit of talk in the cabin and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Others were still clapping. I actually took my phone out of airplane mode and sent a blog post. Always the thinker, I guess.

The flight attendant came on the PA and said we were fine, no need for any emergency procedures. It was then business as usual as she welcomed us to Vienna where the local time was 12:01p.

She also asked if anyone needed medical attention. I thought about it for a moment, then declined. Myself and my other three colleagues then headed for the rear stairs. I thanked the two crew members standing by the door and bade them adieu. As I deplaned, I did notice one lady going into an ambulance. She was a bit flushed.

We then boarded a waiting bus and made our way to the terminal.

"That was close," I thought.


peh said...


Anonymous said...

Now you can add "and one emergency landing" to your stats. Glad all went well.

Sam said...

Very happy you are ok my friend *hugs*