Flying has become a nuisance these days, what once seemed to be a marvel that revolutionized how we travel and what distances we can cross in a matter of hours – now is just a necessary routine. Our family shared this mood when we were boarding out regional flight early Thursday morning. My mother, elder brother and I hopped to spend a few sunny days by the say before the cold days rush back in.
We took our seats in rear emergency isle of the Airbus A321 plane, rejoicing at all of the extra leg space that we got. People on board were fussing packing their belongings and getting ready for the flight. As always, flight attendants took part in the well-remembered flight safety instructions ritual. Soon after, the plain began taxing to the runway, lights were deemed down and we all anticipated our take off. In a few minutes, the plain accelerated at full thrust pushing us into the seats as it was gaining momentum before the lift-off.
Then there was a troubling sound just when the plain rotated and took into the skies. People in the front seats started screaming and someone shouted “birds! birds!”. The plain began rocking from side to side in an unusual pattern. I saw a terrified, while restrained, the expression on face one of the flight attendants who seat in the same emergency isle as we did. My mother grabbed my hand and my brother became stiff and unresponsive as we all were transfixed on the condition of the flight. It was unusual to see so many people being scared and confused at once, everybody looking around in search of any indications of what might be going on. A moment later I felt a strong smell of something burning, apparently, everyone else also felt it as somebody even started to cough. People at the front rows screamed that they see fire coming out of the left engine.
Suddenly, the chaos in the cabin was interrupted by the captain informing the passengers that a flock of birds collided with the plane during the take-off. Apparently, the damage was severe and the plane would not be able to turn around and land at the airport. My mother grabbed my hand and a reached for brother’s hand as well. A deep sense of fear and realization of a potential disaster descended on everyone on board. Flight attendants rushed to check if everyone was still buckled up and in a proper position. Then, one of them came to us to explain that we, sitting next to an emergency exit, will most probably have to open the door once on the ground and oversee the beginning of the evacuation procedure. Needless to say, it all seemed too surreal and shocking.
The plane started descending and the captain addressed us once again telling that an emergency landing will be in a few minutes and that they will try to land on the field. We were asked to brace for impact holding our hands in front to protect the head. The attendants shouted “brace! brace! brace!” as the plane flew lower and lower over the green carpets of picturesque fields. Looking to the side I saw as one man ignored the warning and filmed the descend with his phone.
The touch down came as a blast. A terrible force pushed all of us up front, ripping the air out of lungs while seat belts bit hardly. The plane trembled and rocked as dashed through the field while an overwhelming wave of involuntary scream filled the cabin. At one point it seemed that the plain will inevitably turn to the side as it shook violently. And then was a moment of brief and defining silence when the plane finally came to a full stop. Immediately after the captain ordered to evacuate the plane. I unstrapped my seat belt and followed the example of the flight attendant to my right, who opened the emergency exit door. I did the same applying all my strength to the handle and the door gave in.
The evacuation was swift and surprisingly orderly, people proceeded to their nearest emergency exits still fearing for their lives as most did realize that the fuel tanks were not emptied. Once we slid down the evacuation slide we found ourselves amid the corn filed. Flight attendants rushed us away from the plane. The captain and the first pilot were the last to leave the board. All passengers were attended by the crew to check for injuries. Luckily, everybody but one unconscious man sustained light bruises and scratches.
Even now it is hard to describe the feelings we all shared that moment. Everybody was hugging and comforting each other, my mother helped a stranger with a small child, while I and brother checked if we can do something for elderly people. Less than in half an hour emergency teams rushed into the crash site, sirens once again awoke the sense of the magnitude of what happened in less than 20 minutes of our flight. Undoubtedly, it was a combination of luck and professionalism of the pilots that landed the plane safely that it possible for this story to be one with a happy ending.