JetBlue Flight 292 (Part 1)

“I’ve been wanting to write the story for a long time,” I told Rona.

“It was the first conversation we ever had!” Rona said.

“You’re right!  At the Blarney Cove.” I responded.  “It was just fate.  Not that I totally believe in fate.  But I was destined to be on that flight.”

I had booked Devin and myself on JetBlue flight 292 departing Burbank at 3:17 p.m. on September 21, 2005.  The guy I was dating at the time was in a band, and they had a gig in Manhattan that night.  When he found out that I wouldn’t be back in time for his show, he got upset.  To appease him, I paid $50 to change our reservations to the first flight leaving Burbank on September 21.

That morning, Devin and I were driving to return the rental car.  We were going to take the free shuttle provided by the rental car company to the Burbank Airport.  It was a little after 7:00 a.m.  I remember him asking me what time we arrive in New York, and then us doing some math.  “Well,” I was saying, “if you factor in the time change, then, wait, this can’t be right.  Oh fuck.”

Our flight was departing in 15 minutes.  There was no way we were going to make it.  I had never missed a flight before.  I called my mom.

“What do I do?” I asked her.

“You can either pay to get on the next flight, assuming there are seats, or you can get on stand-by for free and just wait for a flight to have room,” she advised me.

At the Burbank Airport, I found out that we could pay $100 each to get on a flight leaving around 11:00 a.m.  I called my mom again.

“Don’t do it,” she said.  “Save your money.  Just get on stand-by, something will open up.”

Now Devin and I just had to kill time.  Luckily, airports serve liquor at 8:00 a.m.  White Russians seemed like a good breakfast, so we drank.  There wasn’t room for us on the 11:00 a.m. flight, so we drank more.  We drank so much that we managed to get in a huge fight about the ease and efficiency of using prediction text.  The fight escalated.  Devin ran away.  I chased him outside where we quickly reconciled.  Then, while chain-smoking cigarettes, we made an amazing discovery: an abandoned airport wheelchair.  We were so drunk that it seemed only appropriate for Devin push me around in it.  He rolled me inside.

“I’m happy you and you friend made up,” someone called to Devin.  In my inebriated state, I couldn’t tell if the person was being sarcastic.

We heard our names being called over the intercom.  It was 3:00 p.m.  Flight 292 was leaving soon, and there was room for us on it.  The announcement repeated our names along with the gate number.

I did not get out of the wheelchair.  Devin pushed me (rather quickly) up to the security line.  A TSA agent approached us.  “Mam, are you capable of walking through security without your wheelchair?” she asked me kindly.  I was so intoxicated, it isn’t hard to believe that I looked like I needed the wheelchair.

Devin came to my rescue.  “Here, I’ll help her,” he said as he took my arm and walked me through the metal detector.

The TSA agent brought the wheelchair to the other side of security for me.  I sat back down.  We heard our names again over the intercom.  It was the last call.

Devin was running while pushing me in the wheelchair.  We ran into a man in a suit and he said something snippy to us.

Fortunately, the area around our gate wasn’t crowded.  I jumped out of the wheelchair while it was still moving.  We had made it to the gate in time.

On the plane, we took our seats next to Sally, a middle-aged lesbian with a masculine haircut wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants.  She sat by the window, I was in the middle, and Devin had the aisle seat.  I slowly started to pass out.

I awoke not long after takeoff to an announcement from the pilot.  He said that there was a problem with the landing gear.  The plan was to lower the plane in front of the control tower at the Long Beach Airport so officials could assess the damage.  I was still drunk and not worried.  Devin was unconcerned as well.  I began to thumb through a magazine while awaiting the next announcement from the pilot.  There was a photograph of a handicapped person in the periodical.  “That’s what you looked like when you boarded the plane,” Sally told me, supporting my theory that I was plastered enough to look disabled to the TSA agents.

The pilot was speaking again.  He explained that the front landing gear managed to turn 90 degrees before folding up into the airplane, only it failed to actually retract.  Basically, the wheel was useless.  It might as well have been nonexistent.

Passengers, including myself, started looking concerned.  It only intensified when the pilot said that we were going to circle Los Angeles International Airport for a few hours to burn off fuel before making an emergency landing.  He said they would attempt to land the plane using only the rear landing gear.  At the last possible moment, he would lower the nose of the plane.

“Alright, everyone to the seats in the back of the plane!” the flight attendant instructed.  “We want to get all of the weight in the rear of the plane!”

Everyone did as they were told.  Sally began passing overhead luggage back.  Devin and I were separated.  He ended up a few seats away from me, and my eyes started to water.  “I want to be by my friend,” I said aloud to anyone who would listen.  The man next to me understood.  If we’re going to die, I want to be by my friend.

“I’ll switch with him,” the man said.

I was still in the middle seat and Devin was on the aisle again.  There was a man by the window to my left.  He had turned on his cell phone along with many other passengers, hoping they might get a signal to call their loved ones.  Just in case.

“They’re burning off fuel because we’re going to catch on fire,” the man to my left said.

I heard people talking behind me.  “When he lowers the front of the plane, the broken wheel is going to snap the landing gear and the nose is going to crash into the runway and crack the plane open.”

A woman across the aisle from me was crying softly.

“No,” I heard someone else say.  “When the wheel touches down it’s going to cause the plane to spin out of control and it’s going to flip and explode.”

The flight attendants positioned themselves in the aisle and demonstrated how we should brace our bodies when it was time for landing.  “You can cross your arms with your hands on the top of the seat in front of you, and then put your head down…”  There were other positions to choose from, but I didn’t hear them.  I figured the first one was as good as any.

I envisioned the cabin filling will fire.  I thought about how much it might hurt and what it would sound like when we crashed.  I assumed there would be screaming.  I wondered what it was going to be like to die.

Everyone was seated, and we began circling LAX.

To be continued.

jetblue in air

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

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3 Responses to “JetBlue Flight 292 (Part 1)”

  1. JetBlue Flight 292 (Part 2) | Keep My Words Says:

    [...] Keep My Words « JetBlue Flight 292 (Part 1) [...]

  2. JetBlue Flight 292 (Part 3, Conclusion) | Keep My Words Says:

    [...] Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2. [...]

  3. “Are there devils with halos in beautiful capes taking them into the flames…” | Keep My Words Says:

    [...] am terrified of air travel. And it’s not just because of my experience with JetBlue. There’s something about being in a huge metal tube thousands of feet in the air going hundreds [...]

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