Final Flight | Teen Ink

Final Flight

November 5, 2014
By Trlearjet, Barrington, Rhode Island
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Trlearjet, Barrington, Rhode Island
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Author's note:


Final Flight
There was a loud buckling sound from the belly of the plane, visible cracks started to form on the interior of the cabin, a loud droning noise continuously rushed out of engine number 2. Alex looked back into the cabin from behind the controls of the plane, he saw that pure terror was filled in the minds of all the passengers and was being violently expelled in the form of screams. Some passengers were crying, some praying quietly, others were ready in the brace position just in case they were to fall from the sky at any minute. He saw phones out, cameras recording, people making videos of what might be their final flight, and saying goodbye to the world. It had been this way for the last hour or so, but the passengers continued to act as if every movement in the plane was to be their last. The plane shuddered through the air, he was used to the common seismic events of California as that was were he spent most his time, but this was a new scale of disturbance, like turbulence was tearing the world apart. He was clinging tightly to the yoke, trying to make every movement with precision. It was as if the plane was resting on the back of a dog that had just come in from the rain and was now shaking off the water that had accumulated on it’s back. He was trying to keep the plane steady, they were less than 5 minutes from landing, but with all the confusion in his mind, controlling the monster was the most difficult task he had ever performed.

It was about an hour before, he had only just sat down, coming from the lavatory, in the very last window seat of the plane, a newly-commissioned 767 that was well over the atlantic, 2 hours into the flight. He was getting ready for a nap, as was what was part of his routine during flights. Recline the seat, head on pillow against the cabin wall, pop in the earbuds and put the sinatra on shuffle. He stared through window, looking out over the vast abyss of atmosphere, and under that, the deep blue of sea. Just thinking of the plane gliding through the air made Alex wander off in a dream. Then, the first surging noise came from the right engine, and a small explosion “pop” followed, which jostled the passengers awake in an instant. The plane violently jerked left and pitched down almost 30 degrees, a wave of screams and cries erupted. Alex felt his stomach rise to his head and tried to gulp it down, standing up in his seat to counter the loss of altitude that the plane had just experienced. His heart began to beat as fast as the speed the plane was traveling through the air, opposite his heart beat however, time seemed to slow down, he was hypersensitive to the movement of the aircraft. He somehow sensed another movement to come, so he sat down as quickly as he could, just in time for another steep bank right. The passengers slammed against the wall of the cabin, one of the overhead compartments opened and a volley of baggage rained down on the  row of seats in front of him, he saw a bag hit the head of the aisle seat passenger and his head slouch to the side.
“That must’ve hurt”, Alex thought to himself, but he almost wished that it had happened to him, being unconscious would surely beat the horror of what was unfolding.
Then, a realization filled his mind, these might be the last seconds of his life, he might be sucked out of the fuselage any second, the plane might explode, or they might plunge into the freezing atlantic. He needed to make some sort of video for his girlfriend.
“No, now is not the time, we will make it out of this, ”he thought. More questions filled his mind, how high up were they?How far were they away from an airport? Alex felt an urge to know what was going on.
Above all the commotion in the cabin, one of the flight attendant’s voices came on the loudspeaker making an announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, please stay calm, the pilots and flight crew are not exactly sure what has happened, but we do know that we need to get on the ground. Air traffic control has given us priority in the air communications and we are only about 35 minutes away from the closest airport, we promise to give frequent updates, and we ask that you please stay calm. Shouting will not help us get down any quicker, thank you.”
As if the passengers had heard nothing, an eruption of shouts started. People had questions, that included Alex, but he was going to find his answers in a different way. He got up from his seat and walked to the front of the plane, being careful in case of another sudden jerk of the plane, he tightly grasped onto the aisle seats as he walked.
The flight attendant looked at him and said, “Sir, you need to get seated right now, this is no joke,” Alex stopped in front of her,
“If this is no joke, why are you lying to us, you know what's wrong, and you know we won’t make it, we’re at least an hour away from even the closest land.”
The flight attendant broke down crying, “I just am telling you what you want to hear, I’m scared. I don’t know what's going on. I want to see my family too, the pilots haven't made an announcement or talked to the other flight crew yet, I don’t know what's happened to them.”
“I need to see the pilot, now!”, Alex demanded. Reluctantly, the flight attendant entered the password to the flight deck, Alex cracked open the door just a tad, but a rush of wind threw it completely open, and a force like no other he had felt dragged him toward the windshield, he saw the flight attendant try to scream, but no audible noise came, she dove to the side where there was less of a current of wind. that was the last he saw, Alex thought in his mind, “the depressurization!, we need to get down to equal pressured air now!”. He jumped beside to a seat, pushing to the side the body of a pilot, he got to the controls, strapping himself in, and securing an oxygen mask to his face, he shut off the autopilot and pushed the yoke away from him to a decent rate of 5000 feet per minute, he knew this would be the safest rate to get down.
He looked to the cabin to see the passengers with their masks on, thankfully, they had automatically deployed. He started to level back off once the altimeter read about 14,000, a safe altitude for breathing. He took a minute to readjust the autopilot and engaged it, there was still a rushing wind coming through the cockpit, but it was not as heavy due to the equalized pressure. He stepped back to examine the scene, the two pilots were slouched over in their chairs, with fragments of debris sticking into their torsos, Tthe stewardess came back into the cockpit., 
“Ooh my Ggod!” the words struggled to come from her mouth due to the wind. Alex leaned over them both, quickly checking their pulses, and instantly confirming the devastating, both pilots were dead.
“It looks like some debris came through the window,” the¨ flight attendant said, “who knows what it could have come from.”
The fragments that were stuck into the pilots resembled small components of an aircraft’s wing. A thought struck Alex’s mind that sent shivers down his spine. He examined the windshield the best he could, there were 4 or so hairline cracks spanning the entire windshield, and two larger cracks in the very center of the screen.
“Okay, I might be able to get this thing down,” he blurted suddenly. “There’s still some hope, I’ve been reading up and studying to become a pilot myself, I have a couple hours in single engine, I can fly this,”Alex said.

“I’m not sure,” the flight attendant began,
“It’s the only choice,”Alex interrupted, “I’m doing this.”
She was scared, terrified, Alex could tell, but she quietly nodded and walked toward the main cabin. From outside of the cockpit, Alex could hear the flight attendant making an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning to make our descent toward the airport, we have a passenger on board with flight experience who will be flying us down. Please stay calm.”
On the flight deck Alex was frantically trying to get in contact with ATC while still trying to unscramble what was happening.  How could he possible land this plane?
He heard a faint voice on the radio and tried to tune it in clearer, “Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is an Air America 767 inbound to LAX from Heathrow declaring an emergency.”
“Air America 767 ident Bravo- Delta-3-niner, state your emergency.”
“This is Bravo-Delta-3-niner, we have lost both pilots and are experiencing mechanical problems, in control now is a passenger with flight experience, we need priority clearance to land.”
“Affirmative, 3-niner, turn left heading 360, decent to maintain flight level 2-0, we are guiding you into a Newfoundland airport approximately 100 miles ahead “
Alex was scared, he was overcome with emotion and fatigue of what was happening, some 230 lives were in his hands now. For the next 15 minutes, he monitored the systems, making sure they were on course, and relayed the situation with ATC and Air America. Then, a beeping noise sounded and the “Master Caution” indicator illuminated, this could mean a number of things, but after a couple minutes of scanning the system's again, he realized it was the fuel indicator, whatever had hit the airplane and caused the windshield break may have also caused a fuel leak, he roughly calculated that they had no more than 25 minutes of fuel left at the rate of the leak, that was a problem because they needed to travel for at least 30 more minutes to get to the airport. He made ATC aware, they then gave him instructions for the final approach just in case the radio systems cut when the fuel ran out. He began to descend the aircraft and make final adjustments, these were to either be the last, or most memorable 20 minutes of his life. Just as he predicted, at about 15 minutes before the threshold of the runway, 7,000 feet, the engines spooled down and the plane went dark, they were out of fuel. The APU started up and provided him the most important indicators and systems. He made the final turn, added flaps and began to glide toward the runway. He tried to put down the gear, but the APU did not give power to hydraulic systems.

A wave of anxiety swept him over, why didn’t he think of that! Landing without gear would make the most difficult landing impossible. Then he remembered, he could manually put down the gear. He followed the directions and lowered the gear, the larger two main gear easily locked into place because of their weight, but the smaller forward gear was less heavy and Alex got no indicator that they had locked. Alex knew that even the most skilled pilot wouldn’t be able to make a landing like this, he had to perfectly nail the glidescope, if he was too low, he would pitch up to make it, but lose speed and stall. If he was to high, he would miss the approach or come into too fast. And Alex had only had about 7 hours in a tiny cessna, where it hardly matters if you ran out of fuel, you could land it anywhere.
Then, out of the blue he saw a shoreline, then the runway lights, he was right on, then, a heavy winds came from 3 o’clock and the plane jerked left, he was out of line with the runway, he made an attempt to move the nose back to the right , but the wind continued, there was absolutely no noise from the plane, all the passengers were quiet as if they had already faced the inevitable, a quartet of warning horns went off, accompanied by a an orchestra of beeps, and buzzes.
Then, the most dreaded sound, a stall horn came aloud and cut out all the other sounds, followed by the stick shaker activating making the landing even harder, he heard the noise of waves crashing on the shore he just passed over seconds from the ground, the noise of firetrucks and ambulances on the taxiway ready to assist with the almost certain crash. Then, he heard the landing gear slam to the ground, he tried to use the rudder, but the plane veered off the runway, time slowed, but the plane still felt as if it would never stop, they were headed right toward a building, the front gear that had been holding up well unlocked from it’s position and the nose hit the ground with a traumatic force, Alex's neck whiplashed against the yoke and the seatback.

Suddenly… Beep… Beep… Beep… The sound of Alex’s alarm clock ended his deep sleep as he suddenly awoke with a startle. He nearly screamed, but held himself back, trying to get his mind around what was happening. He was frantically trying to grasp for a breath. The aftermath of such a dream was sending shivers and jerks into his body in waves. But he couldn't even be sure it was a dream, he was losing his sense of reality and panicking. It was as if he had just gotten of a boat from months at sea and could still feel the rock and heel of the boat. His neck hurt, he could hear noises of all sorts, engines, blowing winds, buckling. It was still dark out, the clock read 4:30 am, and he could hear the pidder padder of rain on his roof. He ended the persistent sound that came from the clock and slowly arose to put his feet flat on the floor and rub his face to massage out his tiredness, he became to calm down, finally having a finger on the ridge of reality and pulling himself up. For minutes he just sat there, thinking, what had just happened?
Like with all dreams however, trying to recall what had happened became harder and harder, sharp details began to dull, his dream was being strained of liquid, and the only aspect that alex remembered after a few minutes was that something bad had happened.  He got up from the bed and walked to his desk, picked up his phone and read the 3 emails he had received over-night. Sale on men’s suits, a computer store’s weekly deals, then, the notice from Air America, he was on for the 6:00 AM flight to Los Angeles, it would be a direct flight from Heathrow, Great Britain's largest airport. Then, he remembered more of the dream, he had been on a plane, and something had gone wrong. Panic blew him down again, he was not ready mentally to get on a plane for a while. This flight was no option though, his job, much less his life was on the line, for when he arrived at LAX, and his girlfriend greeted him, he would offer the question of a lifetime, and then she would, hopefully, become his fiance. This action would then be followed by him attending the largest security conference in the U.S. and presenting an idea that would make or break his career. Alex had to face the fear, this would be the most important flight he would ever take. So while continuing to think, he continued with his morning routine. He moved in a machine-like way, he was programmed for efficiency, finishing an email, checking over his powerpoint that he would present, taking a shower, and getting dressed. He packed up his luggage and walked out the door.
The airport was only about a mile away from his hotel, the noise of planes taking off and landing came every couple minutes and could have made a man go insane, but not Alex, the sound brought solace to his normally hectic day, it meant rest from a schedule that was always filled with meetings or proposals, once he got on the plane, he had an excuse for not working and could sit back and relax. He was interested in getting a pilot’s licence himself, he always imagined of being in control while flying through the clouds, but he was never left with time for himself, he was a busy man, and rarely got a minute to just live.
He got into his rental car and drove to the airport, still shivering. He went through security, and got a bit to eat, he got the the gate, G20, and sent a quick text to his girlfriend, then to his boss. He was one of the last on the plane, sitting in the last seat, they pushed back, the pilot said a few words, then the flight attendant gave a safety presentation, they turned onto the runway and the engines spooled up, they began to move down the runway, at 100 knots they rotated and lifted off, it would be a long flight...

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