With classes still more than a week away, it is all but customary for me to spend my afternoons and early evenings watching Air Crash Investigation episodes on YouTube. Air Crash Investigation are series of episodes in National Geographic Channel detailing reconstruction of events about the worst of airline crashes in history. Much of the episodes I have seen already through the weeks following. I even saw an episode on a Philippine Airlines flight enroute Manila – Cebu – Tokyo but the episode that is closest to my heart is this episode…
This was an episode about a Delta Airlines flight that was about to land at Dallas – Fort Worth Airport. As they were on their final approach, they suddenly encountered a microburst that pushed the plane down, momentarily bringing it up then the final pushdown. Unfortunately, the aircraft crash landed, killing 136 people. While this was an unfortunate incident, this brought with it awareness on the effects of microburst and how to avoid it. In other words, it made flying safer against these microburst. As I was digesting information from this episode, I can’t help but have a sudden flashback half a decade ago.
Its was November and I was catching up for the second semester classes in my Freshman year at the university. My Mom and I boarded an Air Philippines flight that early afternoon in the Old Bacolod Domestic Airport which was still in service at that time. I went through the usual flow on boarding flights being a regular air traveller flying back and forth Bacolod – Manila on vacations. For me, it was a good days since I would be able to see the view of the islands down below. The seat assigned to me was a window seat, much to my delight. The flight went on smoothly until the final approach to NAIA.
I remember seeing clouds all around us. It seems that the fluffy looking clouds were freely passing the plane, brightly white and giving us a feel of what heaven might be like. Indeed, it was an experience near heaven – that meant being sent to heaven beyond life. Passing beyond the fluffy clouds, it went fron black to white. I cannot see anything apart from the thunder that kept on flashing close by the plane. As we were about to land, suddenly there was a strong force that was pushing the plane down. I can hear screams from the old passengers exclaiming “Diyos ko, buligi kami”, meaning “Lord, help us!” I was looking at Mom who had a very calm face. I just prayed silently that God would help us in that ordeal.
The pilot’s struggle to keep the plane up lasted for about twenty minutes. It was the longest twenty minutes of my life as there was an uncertainty whether we would make it or not. The plane was being tossed up and down as the pilots were fighting a “force” that I have only recently known as the “microburst”. I kept on thinking further on the college life I spent so far, the friends waiting for me in the university and in GCF. It was an unforgettable experience that my mother herself can also attest vividly. What seemed to be an eternity ended when we skies cleared. We were landing on another airport I immediately identified as Clark International Airport since I saw the outline of North Luzon Expressway in clear view.
Our plane landed in Clark at about half past three in the afternoon for refueling as the plane spent much jet fuel in the struggle to keep the plane up. The people on the flight were badly shaken and unable to talk. The lady beside us called on his husband waiting in NAIA and they kept on talking even as the plane was taxing on the runway. A paranoid old couple behind us shouted on the lady in Ilonggo “Patya na telepono mo day! Maluoy ka man sa amun” (Turn off your phone. Have mercy on us). Indeed, we were filled with fear as we were flying to NAIA. As there was not space in the Domestic part of NAIA Centennial Terminal, where the Air Philippines flight used to dock, we were parked at the farthest apron of the International Wing.
As I was studying the faces of the other passengers, I can almost see their teary-eyed but thankful faces. We boarded an airport bus to the Domestic Wing of the terminal. No one moved that much on the bus until we arrived in the Arrival area. Our baggages took time to arrive since our plane was parked on the other side. As we were waiting for the baggages, scores of passengers were talking fuzzily about the incident on the phone or to the companions with them. Indeed, it shook the souls out of us terribly well. When Mom and I arrived in my Aunt’s house, she wasted no time in detailing the incident to her. Indeed it was an experience I can never forget.
Half a decade from that incident, it is all too fresh especially seeing that Air Crash Investigation. Indeed, the lives of the one-hundred and thirty-six passengers were not lost in vain. Their deaths made flying safer from a lot of people and saved lives of countless people including me. However terrible it was, it saved my life. My salute would always be for the passengers of Delta Air Lines Flight 191.