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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Emergency Landing!

CAYMAN ISLANDS | Wednesday, 25 November 2009 | Views [4618] | Comments [3]

My life flashed before my eyes today. Literally! This journey was going so smoothly: getting my dental work done, seeing the turtles in Tortuguero, a trip to Cuba, Isla de Ometepe. Up until a week ago, when I found out the border to Honduras was closed it's been a challenge (but nowhere near enough to call it a disaster). Perhaps the scariest moment of my travels occured tonight. Nothing but problems at the airport today. There is no place to eat and only a few choices for souvenirs. We all boarded the plane like usual but there was nothing but problems. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I wanted to get home in time to carve the turkey. The flight was delayed almost an hour and a half because of some type of computer maintenance problem. By the time we took off I was thinking that even when we get there I'm going to have to go through customs and I'll more than likely miss my connecting flight. Since it's at like 9:30 and Fort Lauderdale is a regional airport it's likely the last flight of the evening. With a plan up my sleeve I thought that I could get to Miami somehow and see if there's a flight that'll leave but first I had to get there. Shortly after we took off the engines sounded like they shut off or whatever and it was nervous. I must admit I've had a bad feeling about this flight. As we reached our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet things went smoothly; I was practicing Spanish on my Nintendo DS as I was getting ready to fill out the customs paperwork. All along I was thinking about "Will I catch my flight to L.A.?" Suddenly about an hour into the flight the flight attendant got on the PA and said "ladies and gentlemen, I need all of you to put your seats upright and stow your trays, we're going to be landing in the Cayman Islands." Immediately I was wondering if maybe there's a hostage situation or something. When I asked the attendant what was going on he said "there's a problem with the plane, we just want to get out of the air." My heart started beating at like 100 mph and my hands started to shake and it seemed that my blood was curdling. Now I wasn't concerned about Thanksgiving, I was only concerned about my life. Thinking "Oh my God, I don't want to live to only be 25," I held on to the cross that Teressa gave me and said a prayer. What scared me even more was when the plane seemed to dip forward more than usual. Once the plane leveled out I knew we were going to be alright. I was still scared, and some people in the cabin were worried about the steam coming from the fans but the pilot announced that it's normal. All I did was peer out the window looking for some lights, and asking the couple next to me what time it was. We landed safely, and the cabin erupted in cheers as soon as we landed. Upon the time we stopped completely, the Cayman islands Fire Service swarmed the plane. Immediately I was thinking "am I going to have to get my father to wire me some money because I don't have much; I wasn't sure if I was going to be stuck on the Cayman Islands for a few days (though that'd be fun). We were able to get off the plane and as I walked past a fire truck, I got a photo to certify that I've been in the Caymans. Ah, it felt great to be off that plane. Immediately I called my father to tell him that we had to make an emergency landing and that it's unclear how long we'll be here. Shortly before we landed the pilot had made an announcement that he seemed to get the problem under control but, as any pilot should do, he played it safe and landed. Everyone was in high spirits, sipping Cay Brew (the local beer) and just taking it easy. A young lady named Liz had Skype installed in her phone and she was popular because she could call the U.S. for free with it. My mobile phone died and my charger is in my checked bag. There was nothing to eat so I was just sipping on tea. While I had none of the local money, I offered to pay for Liz's stuff with my credit card so I could get some of the local money. Wow, the Cayman Islands dollar is so colourful, with fish and sea life on the back. Most often however, it's the U.S. dollar that's used. Time was passing and I admit I was really hoping we'd be able to stay on the Caymans for a day or so but at the same time I wanted to get home so I could celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. About two hours after we landed, the pilot announced what happened that forced us to land. There was an avionic cooling fan in the cockpit that began emitting smoke. For those of you that wouldn't know what that is, it's a fan used to keep cool the components and boards in the cockpit; similar to a fan used by some to keep their laptop cool. There was still no word on how long we'll be here. I'm sure my father was on pins and needles worried about me, so I was able to make a collect call to him from the payphone. He could barely hear me so I almost had to yell into the phone for him to hear me. With what little money I had I got a Cayman Islands magnet and I actually got an exit stamp from the customs official. At first I asked if he could stamp a separate piece of paper but then he said "how about your passport?" So I said OK. With this ordeal, I can genuinely say I've been to the Caymans, just not in the traditional sense. In talking to the pilot, he said he's been flying for more than 30 years and that it's only the second time he's ever had to divert a flight; the only other time was because a woman went into cardiac arrest on the flight and they needed to land to get her to the hospital. I had wondered: if the closest airport had been Havana, could we have landed? The pilot said we could had that been the case. At this point I feel like I've had my one scary experience while flying; chances are something like this will never happen again. At around 11:00 PM the pilot made the announcement that we were going to continue the journey on the same plane to Fort Lauderdale. Everyone but one young man from Nicaragua decided they were going to continue. Some people get the idea that the pilot might just try to "wing it" but people have to realize that pilots have families too and that they're not going to just put themselves in a situation like that. I made one more call to my father to tell him we were on our way to Fort Lauderdale. On my way out to the plane I tried to talk the young man into going with us; I offered to let him play my game or whatever, trying to assure him that everything is going to be alright. We were all buckled in and then another problem! The pilot stated that he had some bad news: the plane is fine but since the young man from Nicaragua wouldn't rejoin us they didn't give us clearance to take off. After more than a half-hour of trying to negotiate with the young man, he still didn't want to get on the plane. Finally they decided to put him on another flight to Florida. At around midnight or so we were finally in the air again. I got to sit in a business class seat and we were offered free drinks and snacks (normally they charge for them). We flew over Cuba but I couldn't see anything because it was too cloudy. When we landed in Fort Lauderdale the cabin erupted in cheers again; for this leg of the flight there were no problems. The customs officials must've been exhausted from waiting for us and they didn't really even look at my passport when I went through.

In the end we were treated like royalty; Spirit Airlines gave us vouchers for dinner and breakfast, they put us all up at the Hilton, paid for our transfers, and gave us a complimentary round-trip flight to anywhere that Spirit Airlines flies. A few days later they refunded the cost of that flight to my bank account. When I Googled the flight, I read that in the Caymans they closed down the roads surrounding the airport just in case the flight was on fire or whatever. And I still got home in time to carve the turkey on Thanksgiving

Despite all this happening, I feel that this was my one scary flight experience, and it's not going to put me off from flying or travelling! 

Tags: misadventures




This type of post is good for knowledge and I really appreciate this post, So thanks for this post.

  Tim Geoffery Feb 15, 2012 12:08 AM


Although it has been 5 years, I still remember this flight. I was on it to go back to Orlando after staying in Nicaragua for 2 years. I have a faded memory of it (I was 13 back then) but I was pretty worried. My dad was pretty calm, he told just keep calm and then he said if this is our time this our time. I probably wasn't too worried since I flown several times before but never faced this problem. I did let go a sigh of relief when we got to the Caymans. It looked like we stayed there for 3-4 hours before we left. My dad was a bit tipsy since he was drinking during the flight. I dont know if you remember, but when the pilot was giving to update to us, my dad was screaming we were hungry and we wanted food, we didnt have any money to buy any at the airport.. I was really embarrassed and I told my dad to calm down. When the pilots promised that we will get compensation he finally shut up lol. All in all I got back home safe.

  Sergio Saldana Jul 26, 2014 6:22 PM


Mate this is 6 years ago today!!!!! Absolutely crazy

  Roland Horne Nov 26, 2015 5:09 PM

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