This was my first experience of severe turbulence in an aircraft.
|This was my first experience of severe turbulence in an aircraft. Nowadays whenever there is turbulence my mind automatically compares the event with that one incident and I am at peace realizing that this one is nowhere near that one.
We were coming from Sydney, Australia. Capt Burjorjee was our commander. Cockpit crew and cabin Crew stayed in different hotels, don't ask me why. We met the commander at the airport and he said, " crew I need to brief you all" My Inflight supervisor Mr Kalidasan looked worried. Any such briefing meant some problems and we were at risk. Very somberly Capt Burjorjee started his briefing. " Ladies and gentlemen we will face severe turbulence once we reach an altitude of 24000 feet. I have asked for higher altitude but that is not available and hence we will be cruising at 24000. I will keep the seat belt signs ON till we get out of this weather system and that will approximately 45 minutes into the flight. Each one of you will sit at your location with both the shoulder harness and the waist harness. I do not want any deviation on this. let me tell you that this will be the mother of all turbulence that you have experienced so far. After the seat belt signs go off you will all do a walk around and tend to passengers. Do not bother about the service, passenger safety, and your safety is paramount. Let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that this turbulence is something that you have never experienced before"
Capt Burjorjee's briefing was something that was sacrosanct to me. There are commanders in Air India who command respect and reverence and he was one of them. I went through my manuals, once I was on board the aircraft because I was scared now and being scared I forgot what the "Walk Around" meant. Okay, I was now ready. " All doors to automatic" was a call from the cockpit. The ordeal starts. I had no idea what to expect and in the few years that I had flown till then, a little shaking and bumps here and there was, to me quite enjoyable. But still, I asked the senior hostess who was to sit beside me for the take-off about how bad such incidents can be and she very confidently told me that I need not worry as these things are pretty common in flying plus Capt Burjorjee is in command. "Okay" I said.
The aircraft started to taxi and I was seated in the jump seat at door R4 . This location is just facing the passengers. So here I was privy to a knowledge of a situation that the passengers were completely unaware of and I am seating facing the passengers. The aircraft started its taxi and was on the runway. " Crew to your station for takeoff" was the command that blared from the PA system. My heart started pounding, in a short while from now we will be in an ordeal of which I have no inkling. It was a smooth takeoff, the huge jumbo effortlessly climbed to its cruise altitude. The seat belt signs were ON. Then about ten minutes into the flight Capt announced, "Ladies and gentlemen we will be flying through a rough patch of weather keep your seat belts fastened and please do not attempt to get out of your seat" I was now sweating, the ordeal starts. At first, there was a mild shaking of the aircraft which was common. It continued for sometimes and I thought that, Oh if this is severe then its fine, in fact, I was enjoying the shake. The hostess sitting beside me told me that the Capt. has said severe and this is not the severe type. I was waiting for the severe turbulence. Then it came. A sharp fall in the altitude as though we were falling from the sky at the speed of mass multiplied by gravity. First time I experienced weightlessness. I was belted by the shoulder harness and the waist belt so I was still at my location but my ass was not touching the jump seat. This itself was unnerving, passengers were now screaming and the couple who was seating right in front of my jump seat started crying. Then the aircraft was lifted by some satanic force and the huge jumbo was just being pushed up. Then I felt the tremendous G-forces acting on my body. I felt so heavy. We were in the severe category of the turbulence. I prayed silently, I was remembering my wife and my newborn daughter if something happens to me now who will take care of them was my first question in my mind. To add to the chaos the hostess sitting beside me, my senior from whom I would expect some words of comfort, started crying and seeing her cry the passengers right in front of me started wailing and that led a chain reaction in the cabin.
I looked at my watch I still have to endure twenty minutes of this mayhem. I looked at my hostess and thought should I also start crying and praying? From my studies of the aircraft designs and 747 endurance reports, I knew that the aircraft cannot be brought down by weather. It is also said that an aircraft is more vulnerable on the ground than in air, but then the weather is nature and no technology or design can survive nature's wrath. I was scared. Somehow good sense prevailed in me. I looked at the couple who were hysterical by now and said, '
" Look here, look at me, I am married and my wife has just delivered our first child, you cry when I cry. Till then have faith and faith not in me but on the divine and on science, nothing is going to happen. This will continue for another twenty minutes and then we will have a smooth flight." Listening to my explanation the hostess sitting beside me smiled at me. Then suddenly there was a huge explosive noise and the aircraft started to fall again." God please take care of my wife and my daughter and let them know that I did not cry during this mayhem"..I was praying. I thought that now something might have happened and we were falling from the sky. Then again we were pushed up and there was a side swap so violent that each one of us was shaken like a cocktail. It was like we were all like a cocktail shaker. My hostess just blabbered,"I have a son and I am all that he has.""Who will look after him he wouldn't even know that I am gone" I was scared no doubt but somewhere deep down now I was calm and composed and accepted the situation. I told my inner self that if this is it and let it be. I told her to stop scaring me and the others and to continue sitting here quietly.
Suddenly the aircraft banked very severely on the starboard side and the couple looked at me perplexed as though asking my permission to cry and wail. I raised my hand towards the couple signaling every thing s fine, as I couldn't find my voice by now and my knees were shaking. Those twenty minutes were the longest twenty minutes of my life. Then the PA crackled and Captain's voice came on the PA," Ladies and gentlemen we have just cleared the turbulent patch and from now on all the way up to Singapore we will have a stable flight, Crew to do your walk around once the seat belt is switched off".
I was relieved and looked at the couple sitting in front of me. Their eyes said all. The seat belt signs went off and we got out of our jump seats and did a walk around. The cabin was in a mess. Passengers vomited in their seats and aisles. Some needed oxygen as they were having difficulty in breathing and some needed comforting. The hostess sitting beside me was in the galley behind the curtains and was crying profusely.
I comforted her saying that the aircraft is designed in such a way that such freak weather cannot bring it down and in fact, the aircraft is more vulnerable in the ground than in air. She thanked me wiped her