Friday, March 28, 2008
I had a co-worker email me last night saying that he had just landed from one of the most turbulent flights he had ever been on. And he has flown a fair amount. In fact, he himself is a pilot.

So, that reminded me ...

I am not what you might call a "road warrior" but I would guess that, over the last 25 or so years, I have been on at least a thousand different flights. I remember back when I first started flying a fair amount. I thought that I would always be able to remember every flight I was ever on. I got up to about flight #30 and decided "the heck with that!"

I really only have one flight that stands out in my mind as having severe turbulence. Pilots I believe rate turbulence severity on a scale of 0 to 6. If this wasn't a 6 or at least a 5.9999999, I would be amazed.

The flight was taking me from Milan, Italy to Frankfurt, Germany I believe. I think it was Air Italia to the best of my recollection. Air Italia is pretty top notch. If I know my geography, we would have been flying over the Alps. All I really remember is that the air was really quite clear (clear air turbulence is often the worst I have been told) and I could look down and see a bunch of really rough snow-covered mountains. If we crashed into them, I figured we would not be found for days or perhaps even years.

It was a two-engine jet. Not a real big plane but decent-sized. The flight was packed. I suppose there were 75 of us on there. There was a handful of other US travelers but most of the travelers were over-sized Italian women the best I could tell.

We had been in the air for a little while. In fact, they had just served us breakfast when we hit turbulence that was unlike anything I had ever before experienced. Most turbulence consists of just some gentle rocking side to side or maybe a little bouncing. This was like the plane was smashing into a brick wall ... again and again and again. We'd hit this wall head-on and then bounce backward, just to return and hit the wall again. When the plane would bounce back, it would go sideways.

The pilots didn't say much. That was okay with me. I sort of wanted them to concentrate on flying the plane. And, when they did say something, it was in Italian. They spoke very good Italian. I don't.

I kept thinking that surely we would change altitude or direction to try to get out of the turbulence but they just kept pounding into it. Finally, after about 45 minutes, they turned to the right and we got out of it.

During the turbulence, there were people crying, screaming, and shouting the Rosary over and over again. They were a bit distracting but it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one who was convinced we were going to crash into the mountains and never be found until we had either died from the impact or frozen to death.

But, in the midst of this, I had my own problems going on, besides trying to contain my breakfast. I had a window seat that morning. I was in the very back of the plane and at one point the turbulence caused my window to fall apart. The estucheon plate surrounding it popped out and suddenly I had a window assembly coming toward me which I speared with my left arm, catching the frame pieces and the inner plexiglass.

I realize now how ridiculous it was but the only thing I could think was that I had to get the window put back together or else I was going to be sucked out through it. (I was much skinnier then.) So in the midst of the smashing and bouncing action, I was struggling to play airplane manufacturer and re-assemble my window. I did get it put back together eventually.

When we landed in Frankfurt, many people came down the stairs from the plane and immediately kissed the ground. I just kept thinking that I could not possibly get on another plane to continue my travel home -- across the Atlantic in fact. But I wasn't sure what my options were. I kept thinking I could stow away on a freighter ship but that might take me weeks to get home.

So, I got on my next flight and flew the rest of the way home, arriving in Detroit in the middle of a major snowstorm which is, of course, a story all its own.

  posted at 5:11 AM  


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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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