In general I’m pretty comfortable with flying, though the pre-flight queues and security rituals now sometimes elevate my blood pressure. However, I flew from Vegas to San Jose mid-day yesterday on America West and had one of the more nerve-wracking flights I can remember. About halfway through the flight, we sustained some of the most intense turbulence I’ve experienced, not only violent but also long-lasting. Acute and chronic. I turned on some mellow music on my iPod and practiced some deep-breathing relaxation exercises, both to calm my heart and to fight the nausea (and I am not prone to motion sickness).

After landing and finding myself unusually happy to be in the San Jose Airport Terminal, I overheard other passengers commenting with surprise at the extreme bumpiness of the flight, so I concluded I wasn’t just in a particularly skittish mood for some reason. Perhaps post-traumatic stress from the packed halls of CES?

But why did I feel compelled to blog this? As if the other passengers’ post-flight comments weren’t enough to confirm that the turbulence had been extreme, one other event stood out. A woman sitting several rows in front of me reported shortness of breath and chest-pains following the roller-coaster portion of the flight and had to be given oxygen immediately upon landing. Paramedics were waiting for her with a wheelchair once the plane reached the gate. I later encountered the paramedics elsewhere in the terminal relating to some of their colleagues that the woman was fine but had suffered a severe panic attack as a result of the turbulence.

I sincerely hope this flight goes into my record book as the most turbulent flight I will ever take.

  • Christy

    It’s amazing how turbulent flights can be when there is still (apparently) no danger of the plane falling out of the sky. I was on a flight into Chicago in January that experienced an approx. 1200-foot drop (3-4 seconds of free fall), complete with screaming passengers and, even more ominously, a post-drop crying flight attendant (and injured people taken off the plane on stretchers at the airport). Anyway, the thing that was the most amazing about it was that after the plane seemed to stabilize, we all looked to each other for a reaction instead of forming our own reactions. I was trying to decide which was more appropriate — full-on total panic a la, “I better get on my cell phone and call some loved ones and say my goodbyes and tell someone which kennel the dog is in, damned the flight instruments & federal law, we’re going down anyway!” or nervous laughter. Everyone else seemed to be doing the same. The woman next to me finally said, “That was intense,” which launched everyone around us into long, babbling agreement. The crying flight attendant really set a number of people off, and people cared intensely that we weren’t hearing anything from the cock-pit, not that hearing or not hearing would have changed matters. I guess our need for feedback/cues just shows what social animals we are.