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Airplane Horror Stories

airplane runway plane airport purpleHit the Brakes!
"I was traveling from Salt Lake City to Atlanta on a Delta 767. We were on our takeoff roll when the pilot jammed on the brakes and brought the whole proceedings to a halt. As we taxied off the runway, the pilot informed us that an engine warning light had illuminated in the cockpit and he had to abort the takeoff. Back at the gate, the maintenance crew did their inspection and could find nothing wrong with the engine.

"Maintenance decided to call headquarters in Atlanta for advice. Atlanta's response was to not worry about the light and send the flight on its way. As you can imagine, everyone had a death grip on the armrests when we started down the runway for a second time. Fortunately we flew off without a problem. However, it took a day or two for my blood pressure to get back to normal." -- jwahl54

Just Take a Deep Breath
"I was flying from Denver to Moline via Chicago O'Hare. Waiting at the gate, they kept telling us that the inbound flight was delayed. They finally had the ground crew bring over a spare plane for us to board; we started boarding the plane then stopped.

"We then had to wait almost an hour while they put an oxygen bottle on the plane for a sick child. We then boarded the plane, now almost two hours late. When they were to the point of closing everything up, a thunderstorm went through, and they had the entire ramp personnel go indoors so as not to be hit by lightning.

"After another 20-minute delay, we finally took off. Because of the delays in Denver, I missed my connecting flight. When I got off of the plane, I went to the counter and asked what I need to do to get a hotel room because of being stuck there. The counter person told me that the airline was not responsible to provide a room because the delay was caused by weather. I told her how the oxygen bottle incident was the cause of the delay, and the pilot that was standing next to her agreed, but she said, 'Sorry, but it shows as a weather delay.' So I ended up paying $75 for a room that night." -- kamakazi joe

Ruffled Feathers
"Flying from Sioux Falls to Denver, I asked a United Airlines agent for permission to carry on an extra item (a cooler containing frozen South Dakota pheasants), and received verbal permission to do so. However, when I reached the security checkpoint, a single employee of a private security company was acting as gatekeeper for the security area and refused to let me pass. I asked both this person and the TSA staff working adjacent to contact United to confirm my authorization, but they did nothing while giving me the impression that they were trying. They suggested that I go back to the United ticket counter myself to get an agent to come to the gate. The inevitable result was that I missed my flight. Fortunately, United had another flight to Denver that I was able to catch." -- jimbo

When It Rains, It Pours
lightning thunder storm thunderstorm night sky"Last November, my wife and I were scheduled to take an American Airlines flight from Newark to Nassau, connecting in Miami. We boarded the flight 30 minutes late only to be told that lightning was in the area and takeoff would be delayed. Then we were told that there was no fuel in the plane and takeoff would be delayed. Then we were told that the fuel was in the wrong tanks, the plane was not balanced, and they could not take off the gas cap. They called Houston and eventually we took off. We missed our connecting flight and we had to sleep on the floor of the Miami International Airport because there were no more rooms left due to Hurricane Katrina." -- prideoftheyankees

Happy Holidays?
"I was on a Continental flight from Houston to Pittsburgh just before last Christmas. The flight was listed as on time until we were supposed to board the plane, when the ground staff came on the loudspeaker and told us they could not locate the flight crew. We were assured that it would only be a short delay, and then we would be on our way. Four hours later, the flight crew finally arrived and a grumpy bunch of people boarded our little ERJ for the 2.5-hour flight to Pittsburgh.

"Once onboard, we started taxiing out to the runway. We were in line for takeoff when the sole flight attendant noticed that his galley light had burned out. The pilots asked him if he could just do without it, but he insisted we return to the gate to have it checked. The maintenance staff had it repaired in about thirty seconds, but the pilots came on and told us they had 'timed out.' FAA regulations limit the number of hours that pilots can fly in one day. Our little detour to get this light bulb replaced meant that we could not physically make it to Pittsburgh in the amount of flight time the pilots were allowed.

"Since it was now nearly 10 p.m., there were no other flight crews available and Continental canceled the flight. An angry group of Pittsburgh-bound passengers descended on the Continental desk to get their reservations changed and make accommodations for the evening. I guess someone from the Continental ground staff felt threatened by all of these angry people, because they called the Houston police, who showed up with their billy clubs drawn and threatened to arrest everyone on the flight. This sparked further outrage from the passengers, with one guy yelling about his First Amendment rights. What a scene. I left at this point and returned home, preferring to spend the night there rather than in jail.

"I related this story to the security guards as I was passing through security to get on my rescheduled flight and they said 'Isn't that the flight where the woman died?' I hadn't heard anything about it that night, but apparently someone from that flight died in the terminal ... probably a heart attack from stress. I managed to get to Pittsburgh just before Christmas, but heard other stories about people who did not make it until after Christmas or had to split up their parties to make it before the holiday. In Continental's defense, I wrote them a letter relating this whole episode and received two first-class upgrade certificates for my troubles." -- Pryan41

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    -- written and compiled by Elissa Vallano

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