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I never thought I’d have an emergency landing in a plane. In fact, I never really paid any attention to those safety cards. Yes, we read them and make sure we know what’s there, but every time we get into a plane, we assume that it won’t apply to us. Well, a week ago, we were coming from Johannesburg to Cape Town and actually had to use what was in those safety cards.

For starters, we had been awake for about 3 straight days. We were catching our flight back to Cape Town in the afternoon. Our flight was delayed, because the plane couldn’t land in JHB. The plane circled for a while and was redirected to another airport to refuel. Finally the plane arrived. Once it arrived ( and 5 gate changes later) we boarded and were ready to roll out. The weather had turned horrible. A storm formed and the heavy rains started. Despite that, our flight took off. The first oddity of this flight was the fact that we actually flew low for a long time until the pilot found a hole in the clouds. Once we started ascending, a flurry of lightning crashed around the plane. Once we got above the clouds, I was convinced that the worst was over. About 40 minutes before landing, the pilot came on the speaker,” Ladies and gentlemen, we are having problems with the landing gear. We will have to prepare the cabin for an emergency landing and emergency evacuation of the plane. The crew will be coming through the cabin to brief you on the procedures and please cooperate with them.” The woman next to Peter kept asking if this was really happening. I told her “I know this is horribly philosophical, but we can’t stress over what’s happened – since we can’t change it. All we have now is to change the way we react to what’s coming next.” I’m not sure if that gave me any comfort, but it felt like a painful reality.

At this point people started seriously reacting. One woman across from us simply broke into tears. People started praying. The flight crew asked people in the emergency rows if they were still willing to open the doors. One woman simply threw her hands up and walked away from the seat. Now this is just me being pissy – but frankly speaking – shame on anyone who asks for an emergency row because they want more room but when push comes to shove, they aren’t willing to fulfill the role. The flight crew found people who were willing to open the doors and briefed them thrice on how to open them. As well as reminding them that if they saw flames or smoke, not to open that door, but to exit on the other side. The flight crew then swept through the cabin, removing all personal items and stowing all of them. They instructed us to leave all personal items. At this point, I started to realize that this was a very bad situation. Then the crew started teaching us how to do the brace position for an emergency landing. The pilot said ,”This is just precautionary, and we’ll only give the command if we need it.”

When we started descending, we noticed that this was not a normal descent. The plane was dropping so fast that our ears were popping. Suddenly the crew started shouting over and over, “Brace Brace – Put your head down! Brace Brace – Put your head down!” At this point it hit me that we might not make it through this. People were saying their final goodbyes, praying, and some just sobbing. We put our head’s down and waited to see if there would be sparks or flames or something. Fortunately we landed ok. People cheered when the plane touched down. The captain came on and said that we landed ok but our steering mechanism was shot, so we would have to be towed into the gate. Needless to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable on a plane again – but I NEVER want to go through an ordeal like that again.