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Thursday, February 2, 2006

Flight 83

Posted by on February 2 at 12:30 PM

When I read about those Jet Blue passengers who got to watch their own emergency landing live on in-flight television, I thought it sounded like the scariest thing in the world.

Then, last night, I was flying home from New York to Seattle on Jet Blue flight 83, when what should come on my live in-flight television screen but… Flight 93, A&E’s dramatic recreation of the last hours of one of the hijacked passenger jets on Sept. 11.

“I can’t believe they’re showing this on a plane,” a woman seated in my row said.

I looked around. Everyone else seemed to be sticking with ground-borne dramas (Law & Order, Hardball), but my row was apparently filled with masochists. All of us were watching Flight 93. On Flight 83.

My fear of flying used to be really bad. But one thing that’s helped cure it is getting into situations that are so freakin scary I might as well not be scared. Like that flight from Peurto Rico to Vieques in a small plane with no doors. Or like that aborted landing in the fog in New Delhi a touchdown, then screaming engines, a quick takeoff, and an announcement from the pilot that he’d overshot the start of the runway, sorry, and would now be trying again. Or, like watching Flight 93 on Flight 83.

I would venture that A&E had no more receptive audience than the people in my row last night. I cried every time someone on the doomed flight made a phone call to a loved one and as anyone familiar with the “Let’s Roll” story of Flight 93 knows, we’re talking about a lot of calls. Calls to mom, calls to wife, calls to a nice woman at the Verizon Airphone call center. At one point I found myself pouring a bit of bottled water onto my t-shirt so I could use it to clean off my glasses, which had become spotted with dried tear salt, and I thought: Maybe I should shut it off now.

And then I thought: No, this is good for me.

The A&E broadcast of Flight 93 ended with the plane plowing into a field in Pennsylvania. Which I think cured my fear of flying for a good long while. There was the charred hole in the ground, and there I was, somewhere over Montana, having just experienced the terror of a plane crash and not just any plane crash, but a plane crash preceeded by hijacking, stabbing, wild flying, thousand foot dives, and a desperate attempt by passengers to retake the plane.

If my plane crashes now, I thought, it’ll just be a cheap re-run, with a lot less drama. Thanks, Jet Blue.

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If it takes my attention away from the demon ripping apart the jet engine, I'm for it, I guess. :-\

Eli, you deserve some sort of medal for bravery (and possibly masochism) for this...

That's intense, Eli.

I once tried to have a conversation about the movie Almost Famous, but I must have missed a vital scene. I watched it from beginning to end on a plane, sober. Then we realized that it was the plane crash scene, which must have been edited out.

What's you view on censorship now?

Don't worry about highjacking, stabbing, wild-flying, thousand foot dives, and desperate passengers, Eli.

Worry about Airbus rudders. . .

I thought it was found to be a false truth about passengers crashing the plane themselves. Didn't the air force shoot it down?

I heard that airlines didn't show movies about airplane disasters. I never checked it out, but I know I've never seen an airplane disaster movie on a flight. Do you think the terrorism had something to do with allowing this? Or was what I heard an urban legend? I would be mortified to see that. Or to see "Titanic" on a cruise.

True story: my brother-in-law was on a flight from Paris to Boston and their landing was delayed by weather when they arrived. So as they're circling above the airport for quite some time, the bright attendants decide to show a National Geographic special that prominently featured planes being hit by lightening! He said everyone just starting looking around like, "What the fuck, are they really showing this?" Suddenly, the video went out and the lights blinked and a few people screamed. Then the captain came on and said, "We've been cleared for landing, please blahblahblah." Second scariest moment of his life.

I was on a flight somewhere watching A&E or Discovery channel or somesuch special about plane crashes. Made a lot of jokes with my father. We used to make jack-screw jokes on Alaska flights. Just remember, it's the jack-screw if the plane suddenly pulls up, then tilts forward and turns to the side. Then it's a nosedive into the ground.

Also: In my mind, the most terrifying thing about plane crashes is that for so many seconds, perhaps even a minute, you know you are going to die... and that is all the time you have to think about it. That is terrifying.

Officially, airlines won't choose aircrash movies for the in-flight feature, but JetBlue doesn't show movies. It has TVs with real time broadcasts. I guess A&E is one of the channels and JetBlue didn't bother blocking it out during the Flight 93 TV movie.

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