My business partner in China called me last night. Her name is Sandy. She was amused, though not overly so, that this latest hurricane to hit the US mainland was named after her. No, she didn’t ask for royalties to compensate her for the naming rights, she was concerned for the clients she has on the East coast. Her concerns turned out to be genuine. Look at the devastation. Have you ever experienced a natural event like that? Have you survived a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami? I have, as have countless millions of others, and , it is not an amusing experience.
I was flying from Taiwan to Hong Kong many years ago, and the Typhoon flag, number 6 was posted. When it gets to number 8, you run and hide, because you know the consequences of remaining in the open are extremely dire. We took off from Taipei with the pilot telling us in no uncertain terms that the flight would be bumpy. He also intimated that our ability to make a clear landing in HK would be 50/50. He mentioned, in a very deliberate tone of course, that the weather was forecast to deteriorate during our short one hour and twenty-minute flight, but, and it was a huge but, he was hopeful we would make it in, no matter what the wind speed. baring in mind that this was in the days of the ‘old’ HK Kai Tak airport, where, when landing, the plane made a steep right bank towards multi story buildings at 500 feet above the ground, and about two minutes away from wheels down. You could sense that the feeling and mood in the main cabin was apprehensive, to say the least. We were also told that if we didn’t get down, we could easily return to Taipei. Oh Joy!
I hate flying, used to really hate it for reasons I’ve gone into on prior blogs, but now I just hate it because it’s tedious and the people you seem to be surrounded by are so utterly intent on complaining about the silliest of things and remonstrating with flight attendants, who get paid so little to take so much abuse, that I am just sick and tired of the whole experience. Back in the 1980’s, things were just a wee bitty different, and perhaps more tolerable, or, maybe I was just so much younger and more accepting of these strange behavioral patters that we, the human race, exude. So, pressed, knuckle tight into my seat, we took off for the great unknown.
Bumpy flights are nothing new to me, but back then, the experience I was about to have, has only been equalled once since then. Bumpy would not be a word I would use in this instance. Horrific, would! We were on a 747 jumbo jet and we were pummeled, from take off through to the end of the flight. Bounced up and down, shaken left to right, tossed from back to front, and this we a huge plane, not a small one! My seat buddies were frightened, shit, the whole plane was scared to death and then, and then the following announcement,
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot. We have about 15 minutes to go before we land in Hong Kong, but the typhoon has strengthened, and, unfortunately, we aren’t sure if we will be able to land this aircraft. We are reading the weather reports and the winds are gusting from 55 to 65 MPH, which puts us right on the edge for making it down safely….”
‘Jesus Christ’, I thought, ‘turn back. Lets all go to Taipei! Don’t even bother to try to land!!’
WAIT!!! Hold the front page! Did he just say plan??? Didn’t he know what he was going to do?? Alarm bells were ringing inside my head. WTF???
“… is to attempt and approach from the east….”
ATTEMPT???? Fuck me, and everyone else on board. An ATTEMPT??
HOPEFULLY?? The sweat was rolling down my armpits.
“… we will be on the ground within about 10 minutes”
Well, it all kicked off about three minutes after that, less than encouraging, announcement, and it went something like this.
Huge bump! Loss of altitude, bums above seat, no longer on seat, slight panic, lots of panic, silent screams, much prayer. Another huge bump! everyone now white with fear, engines roaring on and off, in and out, making way for huge gusts of wind that by now, were so strong, we felt like a paper plane in a wind tunnel. Massive drop! Roller coaster style. Screams, some sickness from behind, as yet unseen, but certainly smelled. Announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot…” No way buddy! WHo else would you expect at this point? Santa Clause?
“…we think we will have to go round and make another attempt. Hong Kong air traffic control are telling us that the wind is too severe, so we will make one more attempt in the hope that the wind eases, and we will be down safely on the ground.”
Shit, I thought, he hopes???? Whatever happened to ingrained confidence? It was surely lacking now.
Bump, plummet, shake, roll, dive, buffet, bump! And the engines revved up yet again, and off we went, up into that cool grey yonder. There was NO blue sky.
The repeat performance began, only this time we got to within about 1500 feet of the ground before pulling up yet again. Announcement
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, I realize this is not too comfortable for all of you sitting back there….”
NOT TO COMFORTABLE???? The man had just made the greatest understatement in the history of mankind!
‘… but we are sure that we can get down into Hong Kong, so we are going to make one final attempt and if we don’t make it, (pause for effect) we will go back to Taipei.”
OK< one more attempt I thought. hang on in there.
Before I could say “Bless me Father..” we landed! Third time a charm. By now the smell of the sickness on board was so bad, most people were throwing up just because they could smell others throwing up! It was terrible. We got down in one piece, but most of us ended up in pieces, at least we did from a mental standpoint!
So, all of you on the east coast, who have suffered today, last night, and into the next few days, I sympathize! Just be grateful you are on the ground and not up in the air. My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone who lost a loved one last night. I hope the clean up is less aggravating and more efficient than it was on that jumbo jet when we landed into HK all those years ago!