Sunday, May 06, 2018

When I flew into the eye of a storm

I have never seen death so closely. The plane lurched right, then left, then right again. It was like a feather being tossed around in wind, entirely at the mercy of nature.
There was lightning in the sky, and the A320’s engine made eerie whistles as it cut through dark clouds.

We were approaching Delhi, and I could see the faint glow of city lights. As the GoAir flight began its descent, the turbulence grew. Some passengers began to sob.
It was evening in Delhi. First a mild shaking, followed by violent wobbling. The pilots of Flight G8335 attempted their first landing. The cross-winds were so gusty that the captain decided to abort.
Heavy rains were lashing the airport. It soon turned into a hailstorm. The pilots tried to land a second time, but aborted again. Unbeknownst to us a deadly dust storm had developed and quickly engulfed large parts of northern India. It was an intense downward movement of air, known as downburst, or a super storm that left nearly 120 people dead. Property worth millions was destroyed in those fateful hours, I learnt later.
I have travelled quite a bit during the last decade or so. There have been moments while flying when it has been turbulent and bumpy, but nothing ever could have prepared me for what I, along with a hundred other passengers, had to endure in the flight from Srinagar to Delhi. What should have ideally been an hour-long flight took us nearly five hours with an emergency diversion and unscheduled stopover.
Flight G8335 shook so much, and so violently that passengers screamed and a few even passed out. I could feel the strong impact of G-force as the pilots struggled in the flight-deck with the plane rising and dropping up to 20 metres at a time. It was apparent that the aircraft was experiencing difficulty to gain altitude. Too busy to manoeuvre the plane, the pilots didn’t make any announcement for nearly half an hour. All one could hear were howls from an angry sky. There were thunderbolts and ferocious lightning. Severe turbulence continued all along.
Flight G8335 shook so much, and so violently that passengers screamed and a few even passed out. I could feel the strong impact of G-force as the pilots struggled in the flight-deck with the plane rising and dropping up to 20 metres at a time. It was apparent that the aircraft was experiencing difficulty to gain altitude. Too busy to manoeuvre the plane, the pilots didn’t make any announcement for nearly half an hour. All one could hear were howls from an angry sky. There were thunderbolts and ferocious lightning. Severe turbulence continued all along.
After refuelling and a few hours’ stopover, the captain came over the public address system: The weather pattern over Delhi — with winds as strong as 130 kilometres per hour, accompanied with lightning — had passed. Flights from other parts of the country and overseas had begun to land again in Delhi. After what can only be described as a nightmarish journey, we had to buckle up once again and head back. In no time, the plane was in air and we were flying back to the capital of India.
By now, the weather had cleared a bit, although we continued to experience mild to severe turbulence. This time the pilots were able to land on the first attempt itself, albeit not very smoothly.
People clapped when we touched down in Delhi. Petrified families hugged each other.
06/05/18 Sadiq Shaban/Gulf News

0 Comments: