Stories from…the Sky

Many years have passed since that incident. More than twenty. But I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was traveling to Tampa, Florida. We were having problems with mail delivery of the newspapers – more than in any other state – and I went there to see if I could find a solution.

Many Greek-Americans live in Florida – as is well-known – many of our subscribers and potential subscribers.

We had almost arrived. The plane was preparing for landing when suddenly the cabin darkened. Heavy rain was striking the windows. The cabin began to shake violently. It seemed like a merciless storm had us in its grips.

We were holding tightly, very tightly, onto our seats and the passengers’ anxiety had reached its climax. In vain we waited for a few words of consolation from the pilot.

“This flight reminds me of another flight,” said the passenger next to me, whom I did not know. He continued: “When the plane crashed and I was saved, but I lost my legs.”

I was about to lose my mind as I looked at him carefully. He had prosthetic legs.

We finally landed. But that flight – and the words of my neighbor – I will remember forever.

I mention this because in recent days we have had two aviation incidents. One was a dangerous adventure…and the other a tragedy that threatens the air transport industry.

The adventuresome flight involved a Turkish Airlines plane, one of the best airlines around. Last Saturday, one of their flights from Constantinople to New York, namely flight 001 – they have three every day into JFK – was about 45 minutes away from landing. All of a sudden, after all was going smoothly and calmly and without any warning, the plane plunged 150 feet or so, it seemed, as if something were sucking it down.

The passengers were losing it. They panicked and began screaming. Objects were falling left and right. Then, just as suddenly, the plane stabilized.

But before people could even catch their breath the same thing occurred. Only this time the dive was shorter. But they still could not exclaim “glory be to God” or “thank Allah” because there was another – smaller – dip. From then on, however, the flight went smoothly. As if nothing had happened.

About 30 passengers were injured. A flight attendant broke her leg. An ambulance fleet waited for the plane to land to take them to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. How do I know all these details? Believe me. I know …

This phenomenon – for this is a phenomenon – is rare and is not recorded by airplane instruments. Therefore, the airline bears no responsibility. Indeed, the plane made a normal return trip to Constantinople. But passengers will not forget it for the rest of their lives. Can such adventures be forgotten?

Regarding the tragic crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane on its take off from Ethiopia’s capital, there are serious questions about the safety of that particular model of airliner.

Questions that threaten air transport in general – but also the future of the American company, Boeing, that manufactures them.

What is known so far is that they have found the “black box” and that Europe and – shortly afterwards – America, have grounded these aircraft.

Obviously they have their reasons …


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