If you have a fear of flying, this is not going to help at all. Statistically, you’re much more likely to get in an accident on the way to the airport than on the plane, but that doesn’t stop it from being a little scary when you feel like you aren’t in control. A Reddit thread asked pilots to share a terrifying moment that could’ve ended in disaster, yet the passengers were completely unaware. Here are some of the craziest responses.
I was flying from Boston to Columbus Ohio, and in between us was a HUGE line of thunderstorms. In events like that, ATC will, in short, let you draw your own flight path to dodge the intense weather cells. The plane has weather radar in the nose and gives us a visual map of red “spots” to avoid. The flight was 3 hours long and the Captain and I were spending every second of that time flying up, down, left, and right, dodging lightning and turbulence. Sweat was pouring down my face as I was using my best judgment on which direction to fly. We must have done a good job because the flight attendant called up to the flight deck to say all the passengers were sound asleep!
2. The Window
I was on a flight home last month, and as we touched down, the entire window on the co-pilot’s side of the flight deck popped out from it’s frame and fell away. Luckily we remained calm and no one was injured. I had complained before about some of the terrible mechanics that get hired to work out of the smaller hubs. None of the passengers knew what happened.
3. Lights Out
Pilot of an Airbus 320 here. Flying into a high elevation port in Asia 23000feet on descent had a TOTAL loss of electrical power. All screens went dark including standby instruments and emergency lighting. To put this into perspective airbus designed this aircraft with three electrical generators in addition to power supplied by batteries and the emergency generator. It is designed NEVER to be without electrical power even if BOTH the engines failed, you ran completely out of fuel and the auxiliary power unit is in operative. It’s a scenario pilots don’t even train for because its never suppose to happen.
After a partial recovery of our screens it was followed by 12 consecutive warnings associated with different onboard systems. We landed safely. Passengers didn’t notice a thing apart from the lights temporarily going out in the cabin.
The car analogy would be you driving at 100 km/hr on a highway and suddenly all your windows are covered up, you lose your speedometer and all electrical systems, there’s no response from the brake or accelerator. But you can still feel the car going.
4. Close Call
ATC (air traffic control) gave my plane clearance to take off on runway 35 (north) at airport GFK while simultaneously allowing for a similar aircraft to depart from runway 26 (west). These runways cross one another, we almost collided at 500 AGL (above ground level). The other aircraft was so close I could make out the expression on the pilot’s face.
5. Wrong Frequency
I’m a commercial pilot, not for the airlines, but fly small planes and had passengers with me. Approached for landing at a familiar airport that was uncontrolled (no ATC). Pilots should announce their positions and intentions, but it isn’t required by law. I started announcing my position 10 miles out, and gave a lot of updates while I was inbound about my direction, position, and intention to land on a particular runway. No one else was on the radio frequency, so I landed. Just after landing, another airplane takes off over my airplane going the opposite direction. I checked my frequency to verify I had the right frequency tuned. I did, and I chewed the guy out over the radio, and there was no response. He may not have been on the right frequency.
6. World War 2
This is a little different, but still terrifying. My grandfather was a bomber pilot in WWII. During one of his missions someone fucked up the formation and ended up dropping bombs above his aircraft. He said he could see bombs flying past to his left and right.
7. Bomb Threat
My friend is a pilot and he said he received a bomb threat while going on a long stretch over the ocean. He couldn’t do a single thing about it, except to wait it out and hope to god it wouldn’t come to pass. None of the passengers knew and luckily it ended up being a fake threat.
8. Beginner’s Last Flight
I had 15 flying hours and was doing touch-and-go’s, and, for the first time, learning to use the on-board radio. This was an airport without tower, so you need to make your intentions known to other pilots by talking all the time.
I say “Cessna XXXX going base to final” which means: final left turn about 300m before the touch down stop on the ground. Immediately after releasing the microphone switch, I hear “So-and-so going base to final.”
I turn to my instructor and say ‘base to final? That doesn’t make any sense?’ Another pilot in the pattern calls over the radio saying “guys, did you see each other?”
Instructor starts looking furiously left and right and tries to look above and under the plane (there is very little up-and-down visibility when the wings are above you.) Suddenly he pushes the throttle on full and banks away: the other plane was now 20 feet right below me. I was about to land right on top of him.
I stopped flying shortly after that. It just wasn’t for me.
9. Fuel Dump
My twin brother was in the (ch)Air Force as a weather guesser. He started his career as a C-141 crew chief. He was flying back from Ramstein Air Base to the USA. They had just passed land and were over the Atlantic. He got freaked out when they started dumping fuel. Then they started a slow turn around. Not many passengers noticed the fuel, but most noticed the turn. He was mentally preparing to find out if the plane was being hijacked.
This was the morning (US Eastern time) of September 11, 2001.
10. This Is The Opposite
Kind of the opposite, but my friend was on the Icelandair plane, which had engine failure over Scotland and had to return to Glasgow airport.
The passengers would not have been oblivious per se – apparently the plane shook lots and the engine shot a jet of flame out of it, and of course they knew they were returning to Glasgow.
However any chance of remaining obliviousness was removed when the pilot accidentally broadcast “Mayday Mayday” across the passenger intercom rather than to ATC. Oops!