Emergency On Flight AC161

Our Air Canada AC161 plane nose dived to 10,000 feet in a hurry.

“F**k me!” exclaimed Norm, the neighbour to my right. He’s Daddy to a 6-week old baby boy. Our previous conversation revealed baby and Mommy stayed back in Toronto for a couple more weeks but Norm had to get back to work.

Just moments before, everything was normal for the 220 passengers on board. No turbulence. No drama.

The peaceful drone of our Toronto to Vancouver flight was punctured by a loud bang and the opening of our overhead compartments, exploding oxygen masks through the ‘flood gates’ holding them back from years of neglect, now dangling right in front of our confused faces.

shermanhu.posterous.com.jpg

The pilot – in his professional but hurried tone – pierced our confusion with alarming news over the loud speakers, “We’re experiencing loss of cabin pressure. We need everyone to be seated and buckled. Please put on your oxygen masks now…”

He informed us that the plane needed to make an emergency descent down to 10,000 feet as soon as possible, and a few other details I failed to catch due to the commotion of seat belts buckling and nervous muttering from passengers throughout the cabin.

Looking to my right, Norm wrangled the oxygen mask over his face. I followed suit. Looking past him, I saw a concerned Mother, deep-tanned from her vacation, assisting her 2 young children with their oxygen masks. The other passengers, now adorning their own masks and tightening seat belts, looked around the cabin, perplexed.

Passengers in shock and disbelief held on with nervous anticipation as the plane performed its steep descent. The emergency door seals in the back of the plane had loosened and caved to loud wind noise pushing its way into the cabin.

The passengers were surprisingly quiet. No one was screaming or freaking out, not aloud anyways. It could have been our response to the shocking reality of our situation.

It’s like a scene in the movies…”, I thought to myself.

Is there anything in my carry-on that I need?“, my thoughts ramble on. How silly. Like anything could matter at this time.

Am I ready? Is this it?“, as flittering images of my Sarah and our children flash through my mind.

NO. Damn it. I hated admitting to myself I wasn’t ready to go. It can’t be, not now. I want to see Sarah and the kids again. I had one more connecting flight before savoring the embrace of my wife of 14 years and the delightful hugs of our two children. We were starting a one-week vacation together as soon as I arrived from my weekend conference in Atlanta.

Norm’s sniffing interrupted my thoughts. His oxygen mask was off his face and he sniffed the air, curiously.

Interrupting the smooth flow of oxygen to my system, I lifted my mask to sniff the air too.

“Fumes!”, I blurted.

Squishing my face on the window to my left, I squinted my eyes at the wing to hunt for any fire dangers or blown engines. All safe here. Norm and I figured the fumes exited from the much neglected oxygen masks compartment.

The pilot burst through the speaker system again.

“We’re requesting everyone stay seated and buckled. We apologize we cannot make it to Vancouver and have to make an emergency landing in Winnipeg. Ground crews will inspect the plane there. Emergency vehicles will be on the tarmac awaiting but just as a precaution.”

Minutes passed, and finally, we could feel the touchdown onto the Winnipeg tarmac about to unfold. We’re coming in fast…

Rubbing my hands on my jeans, clammy from nervousness, I was glued to the view outside my window. “God, help us!”, I prayed.

I’ve never been so thrilled to hear tires kissing the tarmac…Screech…Bump…Whurrrr…TOUCHDOWN!!

We’re safe! We made it! Thank you, God, we made it! I joined the other passengers in clapping and cheering for joy.

“Can I kiss the ground now?”, I asked Norm jokingly.

Speed-dialing Sarah, I shared the good news of our safe landing with her. It felt good to hear her voice again.

“Thank you… thank you… thank you…”, I repeated to the flight attendants and pilot – who seemed quite shook up after this ordeal – and shook their hands with deep appreciation as I walked off AC161 with the other 220 passengers, blessed to be alive to see another day.

It would take another 6 hours before another plane and crew could be ready to fly us out of Winnipeg. Our midnight flight flew with many exhausted passengers to Vancouver, many happy to be back home. My connecting flight to Kelowna early the next morning only gave me 3 hours shut eye. It didn’t matter. I really missed Sarah and wanted to hold her in my arms again.

Upon arrival in the Kelowna Airport, I raced to meet Sarah. We embraced, kissed, and shared tears of joy. I savored the warmth of her embrace, and the thrill of kissing my lady once again. Hand in hand, we walked out of the airport to be greeted by the bright morning sun, fresh air, and a new day.

Have you (or do you know someone who has) lived through a terrifying life-and-death experience? How did the experience impact you (or them)? How do you (or they) approach life, family, friends, work and pleasure now?

96 comments
Beverly Boston
Beverly Boston

The first thing that came up when I read this was the words, "changing your course!". Not only on your adventure with your plane ride, but also in your life. The impetus for change is often a wake-up call, and I would say this is about as loud as it gets. What is rare, is that you listened to your instincts, trusted your gut, and most importantly listened to your heart to make the changes to your course in life.

Sam
Sam

Sherman - great write up - the exact same thing happened to me on a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas. I had recently become a Christian - so the experience was a little different for me than it would've been 3 months earlier. A little more peace with the real possibility of meet my maker.

SAM

Gary Huynh
Gary Huynh

Holy crap Sherman! I'm really glad nothing bad happened. The worse I've been in is stuck in an elevator! At least you kept your composure enough to take those photos!

Brandie Kajino
Brandie Kajino

Wow, this struck home with me today. Over the weekend, our family went to the beach. We were caught up in a sneaker wave, and my son was knocked off his feet. I turned around to see my husband pulling him up out of the water. It all happened so fast, and I am so thankful we are all ok. My son was upset that he lost a shoe, but I was so happy he was ok. Covered in sand, whining, coughing, complaining and crying, but alive and with us.
Thanks for sharing you ordeal. I am so glad you are ok and with your family again.
Blessings!

Trilby Jeeves
Trilby Jeeves

Oh, my goodness Sherman... I had no idea. I, too, was in tears by the end of your recounting. What a scary situation to experience. And, the return home. Extra sweet, & beautiful. Times like these certainly add to a healthy perspective on giving gratitude to what we have.

I'm glad you and Sarah are our friends. We're glad you are still here!

TymB
TymB

Hey Sherman,

Looks like this was a lot more dramatic than the flight that we shared TO Atlanta. Glad everything went well. My family and I also got back from a week of vacation - zero internet or cell coverage, which was excellent.

PS. I'm still working on getting a Mac :) Be cool.

Lorna Allan
Lorna Allan

Wow Sherman, That was a scary one for you! Your number wasnt up and an angel was sitting on your shoulder. Doesnt it make us appreciate life to the fullest.
I had an experience to remember also on a flight from Japan to Australia some years ago. We struck serious clear air turbulence and the plane just plummeted straight down, no chance of any control. This kept on occurring and the crew kept us totally informed. My girlfriend had her fingernails into my arm saying were going to die! I kept patting her arm saying no, we will be safe. The crew know what they are doing and they want to come out of this alive too. The first and second time the crew had just poured drinks and I watched fascinated as the liquid floated out of my cup and up like a silver snake. Now I know how they do that in the movies! When we finally landed everyone cheered and clapped for the crew. The crew told us they had never experienced it so bad before. Luckily for me somehow I take those things as they come and remain calm all the time. I am more likely to collapse in a heap when all is safe. Like saying Whew and my legs going out from under me. Still thats good in an emergency.

Last year I spent some hours in a storm in the Gulf of Alaska, just two of us on a 37 foot tug boat hanging on for dear life. The waves were so steep and broken up and it fought us all the way. I just looked at my friend and thought this boat can handle anything as long has he can stand up to it (otherwise I was going to have to take over!) and then sent up a prayer for us and let it be. My friend kept saying can you see the line yet - meaning the navigation line but I couldnt as we had gone too far out trying to get beyond the waves. At one stage he asked too often, like 30 seconds after the previous time and I said 'No I cant! How does Russia sound!" Then realized what I had done and looked at him, said sorry and laughed. It lightened the experience.

That evening safely in shelter and sitting on the deck eating the most amazing BBQ'd steaks with huge baked potatoes, looking out on one of the most pristine and beautiful places on earth we watched the sun set, bears walking on the shore, deer appearing now and then and eagles fishing and feeding their young. Nothing felt better than those moments. This was heaven....

Nicole Dean
Nicole Dean

This world needs you, Sherman. YOU make a difference in people's lives.

Thank God you're safe. I can't lose my new friend after just meeting you. We've got too much good to do yet. :)

Big hugs to you and to your beautiful bride on being together safely. And, thanks for the email to let me know about this.

So, priorities? Direction? Would love to hear if this changed anything for your future plans.

Dulcita Love
Dulcita Love

Glad to hear all is well. Does seem like something out of a movie.

Tricia
Tricia

Praise God all turned out ok but a true eye opener.

James Schramko
James Schramko

I jumped out of a plane a few times - makes you appreciate life more ;)

Great story Sherman, glad you made it!!

Wayne Kelly
Wayne Kelly

WOW!!! Sherman, that's unbelievable! You look calm cool and collected on the plane! Call me when you're back.

Sierra Friend
Sierra Friend

WOW Sherman... I'm so glad your plane landed safely! What a crazy experience. Think this will affect how you feel about flying in the future?

Glad you came out of it unscratched! ...God is at work, reminding us of what is most important! :)

-Sierra

T & J Burt
T & J Burt

OMG!! I have tears steaming down my face as I write this. I am sooooo glad it was a happy ending. What was the name of the pilot? Theresa's husband is a pilot for AC. I have a feeling this experience won't deter you from flying ever again. What does Sarah think of that?

Paul Holman
Paul Holman

Glad to hear your safe and sound.

Take care buddy.

Paul

Robert Nelson
Robert Nelson

Hi Sherman,
incredible writing... I stay offline for one day and look what I miss.
The mind is remarkable with the thoughts we have when we experience traumatically shocking events.

How many "I wish I had..." moments came up during that flight?
What are you doing about them?
Extra underwear in carry on comes to mind ;)

I read somewhere that we come within 2 seconds of dying 10 times a day!

I have had my share of "close calls" over the years and can relate to your thoughts of your wife and kids.

Counting our Blessings that your "moment" ended well .... and will be sharing
your thirst for life for many, many, years to come.

Drink well and often, my friend!

Peace
Rob

Dr Renee Lascala
Dr Renee Lascala

Sherman, I thank God you are unharmed and reunited with your loved ones.

Even those headphones couldn't cancel the noise of airbrakes for what must have been a harrowing 20,000 foot descent.

Inasmuch as you reported the oxygen masks and their environs had been enclosed and neglected, I encourage you to be vigilant for any respiratory or flu-like symptoms in yourself, or fever, eye inflammation, etc. Who knows what bacteria were potentially able to survive within the emergency aeration system, or how any of the cabin air was recirculated during the crisis.

Just a precaution from the medical side......while emphasizing the joy we all feel that you are remaining on Earth.

Dr Renee LaScala

Janet Sherwood
Janet Sherwood

Sherman, Some "close calls" seem to last an eternity; others only for moment. Whether on the highway or in the skies or just the split second before you slam into the ground face down while on skates, they all remind us of the fragility, the insubstantiality of our lives.

These times, if we're blessed to live through them, truly wake us up to the truth that people, most especially our people, are more important than any thing. The trick is not to go back to sleep. For we really do only live right now. And if we live right now awake and aware, those "nows" become sustaining memories for ourselves and our loved ones, the evidence of a life well-lived, of love.

For my part, I'm glad that you survived this "now" and look forward to hearing you many more times in the futures "nows" that we may share.

PamDodd
PamDodd

What a story! Obviously since you got to tell it, it turned out okay. With my heart racing, hanging on your every work, the back of my mind was quietly saying, "Only Sherman would be taking pictures of what was happening with the hope that he'd be able to publish them to the web."

So glad you and your flightmates are safe. Live every day like it's your last.

David Hamer
David Hamer

Amazing story Sherman! Glad you all made it safely to the ground - I bet you value things in a different light now!

Years ago I got stuck upside down in a canoe on Lake Bala in Wales for what seemed like ages (my life flashed by anyway!) The canoe was a bit too small for me and my knees got trapped - anyway a lot of serious wriggling and cut knees and legs later I was bobbing above the very cold water.

I'd rather go through that again than have any plane emergencies - not sure my heart would hold out!

Best wishes - Dave

Ray Prince
Ray Prince

Hey Sherman, talk about 'squeaky bum' time! Thanks for sharing this to perhaps remind us all what *really* matters (BTW, I can just hear your laughter when you landed!).

Ray Philip
Ray Philip

That was scary!. Glad to know you and your fellow passengers are all safe.

Nick Grimshawe
Nick Grimshawe

Hi Sherman,

I'm very happy to see you arrived safely back to this fine earth. On a purely selfish note, I haven't done learning from you, so there is no way! Got that.

I lived through an Earthquake in LA many years ago and the feeling was scary as anything I have ever experienced. Suddenly the earth you have trusted all those years was no longer safe to stand on. The after shock where the worst. I think the same must be true in your case too. Once you get through it all, the realization hits...just how close you came.

Thanks for sharing and the photos.

Nick

Jody Colvard
Jody Colvard

I'm so happy that you got home safe and sound Sherman! You are an amazing writer, you had me on the edge of my seat and tearing up with emotion feeling what you went through. And the pictures, so cool...you are a true journalist, thinking ahead, knowing how powerful the visual image would add to your experience. Whooo, what a ride!
Jody Colvard

Jennifer
Jennifer

Sherman! So glad you're ok! And I was just thinking about blogs. Blogs shmogs!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thanks Sam! Yes, praise God for your safe flight! ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Lorna, you're a pro at this, eh?! Man alive!! Livin' large, livin' adventurously, and livin' in the now...

Dig what you said, "...sent up a prayer for us and let it be..". Brilliant and wise words!

Thanks Lorna. God bless U!

Nicole Dean
Nicole Dean

Just googled this post to see if a year has changed anything after this event. :)

So, my friend? Staying true to the feelings you had this day?

Hugs to you and your beautiful bride and kiddos,
N

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Hey Nicole!! Thanks for your support and props! You are right, we have much to do yet ;-)

Nowadays, my mind is constantly reminded of that memory. So I'm making each moment count (as best as I know how) and treasuring Sarah and my children throughout the day. Business priorities haven't changed much. Gotta rock them out sooner than later.

Chat soon, k? Cheers!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Dulcita, looooong time no chat! Hope all is well with family, biz and health!

Crazy times, eh? It was surreal. In fact, that memory runs often in my head. If for nothing else, a very strong reminder to live in the moment & treasuring Sarah and my children every step of my day. Stay in touch, k? Cheers!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Tricia, thx for reading and your shout out! Yes, my eyes were open throughout that experience! ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thanks James! I would've jumped out of a plane willingly too when I was single ;-) Stakes too high now, "I'm out!" ;-) Thanks for reading and your shout out, man! ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Wayne buddy! I'll holla @ ya! Like a duck in water buddy, like a duck in water ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Sierra, my friend! God is GOOD, isn't He? I believe He has more in store for me to do and be yet ;-) I'll still fly, just takes too long to drive to Atlanta from Vancouver :-) Thanks for the shout out, Friend!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Hey Tania, my old neighbour!! How's things? Thanks for the reading this and responding! Thanks for your tears too ;-) Don't know the pilot's name. Sarah and I haven't spoken about flying again as it won't be for awhile yet - but I don't believe it'll be an issue :-) Chat soon!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Hey Paul!! Long time! Thanks for your concern and shout out, dude!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Rob, thanks buddy!! "We come within 2 seconds of dying 10 times a day!" - really??!! WOW!

Here's to us sharing a thirst for life for many years to come! :-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Hiya Doc! Renee, thanks so much for the shout out and the precaution! I'll keep an eye for any possible issues. Cheers!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Janet, thanks for your wise words! Was it you who "slammed into the ground face down while on skates"? LOL.

Here's to you & I LIVING RIGHT NOW! ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thanks for the shout out, Pam! U know me, brain always a-churning ;-)

Here's to us living each day like it's our last!!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thanks Rod!! Appreciate U and your shout out! ;-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

David, thanks for sharing your canoe/lake story! WOW! That would be frightening gasping for air and getting stuck in very cold water!

Here's to seeing the light and staying top-side and dry! :-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Ray, what really matters *really* *does* *matter* in that instant, doesn't it? And yes, I did laugh out loud when it was over! :-)

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thanks Ray! Let's get on the horn and chat soon k? Cheers brother!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Nick! Gr8 2 hear frm U again, such a long time!! OK, OK, I'll continue teaching ya ;-)

Thx for sharing about your earthquake incident, that WOULD be scary! Keep on rockin', Nick!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Thank you, Jody! I lived through the experience so I could write it just for your reading pleasure

Apprc8 ya, Jody! Thanks for vibing with me through the roller-coaster recap. And thanks for your props & luv! Cheers, bella!

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Jennifer, I KNOW, RIGHT?! LOL! Thanks for your well wishes, apprc8 ya!!

Dulcita Love
Dulcita Love

Will do Sherman. Reinforces each day is a gift, even "plane jane" ones. Do they say "plain Jane" in Canada?

Sherman Hu
Sherman Hu

Sure do! Plain Jane, Oli Ordinary, Basic Beth and Simply Sally are best pals! :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’m still constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have a second chance. What flashes through my mind? My recent emergency flight scare. […]