I just this morning recalled the intervening years after 911 and my magnetic attraction to solving it, still imagining that the day involved jet aircraft and deaths of thousands of innocents. One of the diversions tossed our way was the “Home Run” system, a possibly real rescue system built in to jet aircraft to pilot them home over the wishes of anyone attempting to hijack them. The macabre alternative use of the system would have been to steer them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and an abandoned coal mine in Pennsylvania.
Most readers here know that 911 was but a TV show, no planes, no deaths. If not, if this is news to you, then I welcome you to the real world. It’s a whackadoodle place, but not nearly as violent as TV news leads you to believe.
We flew home yesterday from Fort Myers, Florida to Denver. It was an unpleasant flight, turbulence throughout. Usually the pilot asks permission to change altitude when that happens, but that option was apparently not available. An hour before landing the pilot advised passengers to relieve themselves during a window of calm, and there were long lines in the aisles to the restrooms. The reason, he said, was that landing in Denver was going to be turbulent.
Indeed it was. I suffer PTSD from childhood trauma, and high stress brings it out. My hands were sweating, all my senses alert. In those situations the amygdala takes over, and I am prone to blurt out words that I instantly regret, and so know to keep quiet at all costs. Still my thought was “Make that fucking baby shut up!” No, such words did not pass my lips, but in such situations I feel I am but a spectator.
As we approached the runway in Denver, that point where window-seat passengers finally see tarmac underneath, the aircraft pulled up and the engines accelerated mightily, and we headed back into the turbulence above. There was silence, and once stabilized the pilot announced that he had encountered wind shear so that the landing had to be aborted. He would circle around for another try.
Needless to say, my nerves were at the edge of catatonia. My wife knows to leave me be, and I endured the trauma as we made another circle. Again as we neared landing and saw tarmac below, the landing was aborted. In a few minutes the pilot said “That’s two wind shears. We are going to Colorado Springs. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”
The flight attendants were handing out vomit bags, and indeed several young children threw up, including one right across from us whose unintended target was her dad’s Bose headphones. He is a patient man.
We flew over Chatfield Reservoir, and I recognized the landscape, all very near to our home. The landing in Springs was calm, and we taxied to a place on the runway where another United jet sat, the victim of the same circumstances. The people on the plane applauded once on the aground. This is a common response.
Our seatmate called her husband to say she’d be late, and he began an inquiry at Denver International to find the problem. He quickly reported back to her that there was no mention of wind shear at the website, and that our flight to his knowledge was the only one so affected. We were, he told her, the victim of a rookie pilot. He lost his nerve at touchdown.
I kept quiet, but when she left for the loo I suggested to my wife that her husband was full of shit. The pilot had not aborted the landing. The instrument system on the aircraft did. Wind shear is a well-known phenomenon, and sensors aboard these days detect it automatically. When the plane pulled up on both landings, the pilot, like us, was but a spectator.
I suspect that jet airliners these days could fly without pilots, only having them aboard because some human input is needed now and then in case of instrument or mechanical failure. The beasts fly themselves, and the airline pilot profession has suffered accordingly, their union collapsing into insignificance along with their salaries. There are pilot training centers in south Florida that turn out hundreds of Boeing pilots every year. But it is not like days of yore when ex-military pilots were the norm. They are surely welcome, but overtrained.
This brought to mind the recent 737 crash of an Ethiopian airliner, which looks fake anyway. We are told that the crash was caused by an idiosyncrasy in the stabilizer trim controls, and that the pilots had turned it off and then on again. A 33-page report says that 3 minutes into the 6 minute flight the pilots engaged a manual hand crank between the seats to point the plane’s nose up, and when that failed turned on the automatic system again, resulting in the crash. The cause, we are told, is a “decades-old” design idiosyncrasy on the Boeing 737.
I don’t know why they pulled off that fake crash, whether to manipulate the stock market or to make people even more afraid to fly. But no way do pilots use hand cranks on takeoff to override the automatic control system. Modern jet aircraft, like all before, undergo hundreds upon hundreds of hours of testing to hone out all “idiosyncrasies.” Were such a thing to exist for real, the fleet would have been grounded decades ago. Some other game is afoot.
Anyway, I am home safe, I kept my temper under control and did not yell at any babies to STFU. On the flight from Springs to DIA, I put on my Bose headphones and listened to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, second movement. There is an eight-note sequence there that repeats throughout, and though there are no lyrics to the piece, I supply my own. I think of my wife and the words become a redundancy, “You are my everything to me.” We both thought at various times yesterday that we were going to crash.
We have a family chat site where all of our kids and grandkids can talk to everyone, and my wife used it while on the ground in Springs to apprise them of the situation. I generally don’t participate in the chatter, but did add one thought yesterday: “Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up glue sniffing.”
It never occurred to me that everyone has not seen the 1980 movie Airplane!