Things you hope your pilot never says

As you noticed, I spent several days in Indianapolis at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. Between jumping from one meeting to another, having sketchy WiFi, having to plug in my computer when battery was low, and other reasons, my blogging has taken a hit. I apologize.

It was a great, but busy weekend. Yesterday, I was just ready to come home and take a nap since we'd been going non-stop and I sure didn't get one on Sunday.

Being in Indianapolis, we were an hour of head of what I'm used to, but three hours ahead of what Amy usually is. It makes a busy conference schedule and jet lag even more off whack.

We were sitting at our respective beds with our laptops in front of us on Sunday night at 11:35 when I said, "are we going to work all night or can we actually sleep some? Our alarm goes off in 4 and a half hours."

I think her response was something like, "yes, mother. Fine."

Whatever the response, I like my sleep. Especially given that I didn't have my Sunday nap. Oh, I've already mentioned that.

I get that it was only 8:35 PM Amy's time, but regardless of time zone, we had to be up at 4:00 AM local time to get to the airport and checked in, etc. for Amy's 6:40 AM flight. We had to make sure we got a cab and all of that. As it turns out, we got to the airport around 5:15 AM.

My flight wasn't until 7:40 AM, but that's ok. I'd rather be there early than having to stress over time. It gave me time to buy my mom a shot glass. I ALMOST bought Jenny the "Keep Calm and Eat Bacon" shirt.

All was set to go off as normal as we boarded the flight on time and were told we would likely be arriving earlier than the time given for our flight into Dallas.

We loaded up the plane, fastened our seat belts and were off. Nothing unusual. As the plane started up, something didn't sound good, but I think that every time a plane starts.

I looked out of the window and admired the clouds below. We were given the ok to use are approved electronic devices. I dug out my iPod since I was sitting in the back and the engine was really loud. My Kindle was just getting loaded up so that I could read.

I'm not sure that I finished a whole song before there a set of tones going off. You know the ones like on the commercial for whatever airline the commercial is for. The ones to alert the flight attendants to announce about electronic devices or fasten your seat belt. But there were more beeps this time. I thought that was interesting. I also noticed we had seemed to make a turn farther out than I thought usual.

Soon after the captain announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, we're having some issues with our right engine, so we're going to turn around and go back to Indianapolis so that we can get the problem checked out. We should be back in about 10 or 15 minutes."

There didn't really seem to be a panic around me. More like, "ah man, how long is this going to take us?"

Then, we had to turn off our all of our electronic devices.

A couple of minutes later, we get our next announcement. "When we land at the airport, there will be emergency vehicles going along side us on the runway. This is normal operating procedure, so don't be alarmed. We'll be able to get back just fine with our left engine."

I still wasn't freaking out over the emergency vehicle part. Everyone was almost collectively saying, "oooooooooooooooook." The part that it was with just our left engine made me a bit uneasy. As we got closer, I just prayed, "let us make it down ok." The plane seemed to be tilting around more than normal. It was probably my imagination though. I promise though, I wasn't about to have a panic attack. I know what that's like.

When we landed, I was relieved. As soon as we slowed down enough to stop, we stopped. No taxi around to the gate.

I looked out the window and saw a couple of firefighters approach. I took a picture and the guy beside me leaned forward for a picture. Then, I looked over my shoulder and said, "hand me your camera. There's more back behind us and they have a hose."

This is what I saw outside my window. Notice the HazMat masks? Yeah, I noticed that too. They were breathing oxygen from those tanks on their backs, prepared for something.

And this was looking out the front. Those guys are carrying bags of something. Looks like sandbags. 

The pilot told us the plane was going to have to be towed in. Shortly after we were told that the plane needed to be shut all the way down (electricity) as a precaution so they could check it out closer. It got warm pretty quick without the air.

I called Rakia to tell her to go on to work because I might be stuck for a while.

Oh, and they were going to bring stairs and buses. We were going to have to deboard there on the runway. No slides. We were wondering about the slides. There was a woman back behind me - she had to have been on the back row - who was hyperventilating that they had to get off the plane first. Maybe I should have tried that. We were all going out the front main door. We didn't open any of the other exits. Maybe they were too close to the engines.

Runway staff helped passengers down with their bags if they needed it. The steps were pretty narrow, so you did need to watch your step.

Ever since my friend Angie stepped wrong and broke her leg, I'm scared of falling to my death. Seriously. I thought I was going to fall and hurt myself the other night when we went down six flights at the hotel as to not have to deal with trying to get down the extremely busy and crowded elevators as everyone tried to get down to the gala.

They loaded everyone on to prison buses. Everyone knows the yellow ones are school and the white ones are prison, right? There were only three buses at first and they were full before we got off the plane, so they had to drop the first loads off before we could get on.

Since we couldn't get right onto the buses, we were standing around on the runway. Then the firefighters told us, "we're going to ask you to go ahead and step back onto the grass and off the runway."

It reminded me of how the National Park guard made us stay a certain distance from the bear up the tree a few weeks ago on vacation.

Once we got out in the grass, we saw that there were five fire trucks right behind us. Not one as a precaution. Five.

That's when everyone really started snapping pictures. Someone even took a picture for a couple who wanted their picture together. "Do you want the fire trucks in the background?"

Yes, in this day and age, we all get out our phones to snap pictures and chronicle our detour rather than focus on the fact we could have crashed. Maybe that's a good thing.

Even the pilot squatted down at the nose of the plane to get a shot of the fire trucks to the back. On the prison bus, I commented to the flight attendants who were all in the back of the bus with me that it must have been something for the pilots to be taking pictures.

They said that the pilot had never had to do this kind of thing before. One asked the others if they saw smoke. Oh yeah, there were some sparks and smoke since there was jet fuel on the runway. Those sand bags had whatever they use to soak up jet fuel on the runway. There was a whole group of guys having to sweep it up off the runway.

Side note: Author Deborah Raney posted on Facebook this morning about being leery to go back home to Wichita where there was a bizarre infestation of crickets. I commented that after my day at the Indy airport, I was just glad to get home period. She asked if I was on the plane that caught fire. I told her I wasn't sure about that detail.

Here's what everyone inside the airport got to see while we were out on the plane, etc.

When we all got back in, some passengers stood in line for an hour and a half or more to try to change flights to get to their connections. They told everyone else whose final destination was Dallas that a plane would be brought in for us. More details to come, of course.

I tried to work while sitting in the floor of the terminal, but you could only get on WiFi for 45 minutes at a time, and it was slow at that.

Amy had lamented over a three hour layover in Denver. Once I could tell she logged on, I asked her if she had seen my update and the fact I'd be hanging out for awhile. She decided her layout wasn't so bad.

My 5:30 AM fruit for breakfast wore off after a while, so another fellow flier, Paula, and I commiserated over lunch eventually. Might as well.

After a while a lot of authors we had met and spoken with at the conference showed up for the 12:30 PM flight to Dallas. Their flight got pushed to 1:00, but I told them to look on the bright side. It was a half hour vs. 5 1/2 hours. They over sold that flight and were offering $400 vouchers if they would volunteer to take our flight that was set to depart in less than an hour. REALLY?

I was able to pitch more business while I was standing around. Finally, around 1:00 we started to board, but with a warning announcement, "this plane was flown in from a hangar in Chicago so there are no beverages on board. If you would like something to drink on the flight, you will need to do so before you board. You will be able to bring it on."

SERIOUSLY? A bad engine, 5 1/2 hours behind schedule, and not so much as water, we can finally go.

Once we boarded, we had to go through all the safety instructions again. The woman could barely get through it without giggling. We all learned they weren't going to open the other emergency doors. We're going out the front door!

I was so ready to get home I can't even tell you. Rakia was able to get away from work thankfully and pick me up at 2:30 PM instead of 9:00 AM. At least we could get picked up. As I told her the details, she asked about the mention of compensation and how I should call and tell them that I was a publicist and could get the word out about the whole thing, including the long wait and no beverages, especially given the voucher offer for those on the other flight.

I made it back home a little after 4:00 once I picked up my car at Rakia's and drove home.

Later, I was showing pictures to and talking to Paige and Peyton's mom, Joni. She flies with Southwest and her husband has been a pilot for years and years. Evidently all of this is thankfully very rare. She said he had never had anything like that happen as long as he had been flying.

She asked if we had gotten any voucher or refund offers. I told her at the time, not so much as a offer for bonus miles.

This afternoon, I just knew it was my teaser blog post that I tagged American Airlines in that got the attention of their customer relations offices. "Social media at work," I thought.

We are writing to follow up with you about the situation you encountered as a passenger on our flight 2217 on September 16. We realize that your experience was certainly unexpected and we are very sorry for the concern you may have experienced. In accordance with standard operating safety procedures, our captain asked that the emergency response team be deployed upon landing. While we can well imagine how surprising it was to see emergency vehicles and personnel meet your flight, your safety is our primary concern.

In appreciation for your patience and understanding, we have added 20,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles to your account. You should see this mileage adjustment in your account very soon, and you can view this activity via our web site,

Your loyalty is important to us and we would like to assure you that we are committed to getting you to your destination as planned. We'll do our best to provide a smooth trip the next time you fly with us. We will look forward to the opportunity.

I found out later that an author who volunteered to take our flight and got a voucher had also gotten the same email, so my previous post probably meant absolutely nothing.

I asked my Facebook friends what 20,000 bonus miles would get me, and the best guess is half of a one-way ticket. I don't know about that one way or the other.

Let's just say that was more than enough plane excitement for me. And 8 hours in the airport (minus our short time in the air) was plenty of time in an airport.

Being home, safe and sound, has a whole new meaning now. After having to get up that early after 4 hours of sleep and that whole day, I was ready for my own bed, even more so than 4 nights away from home usually makes me long for my own bed.


Anonymous said…
What a looooong day! Thankfully you're home safe and sound. You know, flying is supposed to be quicker than often is that true?
Audra Jennings said…
Unless you are going somewhere within a 4-6 hour drive, flying usually is quicker. I still couldn't have gone Indianapolis to Dallas within the time I spent at the airport, but I could have gone pretty far.
Thomas said…
That would be really scary seeing all the fire trucks outside your window. It must've gotten boring spending 8 hours in the airport.
Audra Jennings said…
It did get pretty boring at the airport. I think we just didn't realize how serious it was so the fire trucks didn't freak me out that much. I think it was largely a precaution than a necessity.