20 Pilots Share The Scariest Moments Of Their Careers That Passengers Were Oblivious To

Found on AskReddit.

1. A near collide, mid-air.

ATC (air traffic control) gave my plane clearance to take off on runway 35 (north) at airport GFK while simultaneously allowing for a similar aircraft to depart from runway 26 (west). These runways cross one another, we almost collided at 500 AGL (above ground level). The other aircraft was so close I could make out the expression on the pilot’s face.

2. A pilot who flew into a raincloud and lost sight upon landing.

Finally, my time to shine! Airline pilot here, going on 4 years now. I was flying into a small Midwestern airport in the middle of summer. On approach to the airport, we received an alert by the onboard equipment to climb immediately to avoid hitting another plane. Fair enough, climb as instructed, see the offending aircraft below us, and decide to continue the approach. On a 3-mile straight in final to the runway, we spot a wall of torrential rain rapidly approaching the field. Looks far enough away that we think that we can beat it to the airport. About 100 ft off the runway the rain hits us and we go complete white out, cant see anything out of the windshield. Immediately start a go-around, and we get as low as 20 ft before the airplane finally starts climbing. Upon exiting the rain, and at about 500 ft, we finally are able to see again, and get ANOTHER alert for a helicopter right in front of us. This time we are told to descend… All in all, the most hectic and terrifying series of events in my entire time in aviation (about 10 years total now).

3. Almost landed directly on top of another plane.

I had 15 flying hours and was doing touch-and-go’s, and, for the first time, learning to use the on-board radio. This was an airport without tower, so you need to make your intentions known to other pilots by talking all the time.

I say “Cessna XXXX going base to final” which means: final left turn about 300m before the touch down stop on the ground. Immediately after releasing the microphone switch, I hear “So-and-so going base to final.”

I turn to my instructor and say ‘base to final? That doesn’t make any sense?’ Another pilot in the pattern calls over the radio saying “guys, did you see each other?”
Instructor starts looking furiously left and right and tries to look above and under the plane (there is very little up-and-down visibility when the wings are above you.) Suddenly he pushes the throttle on full and banks away: the other plane was now 20 feet right below me. I was about to land right on top of him.

Stopped flying shortly after that. It just wasn’t for me.

4. Flew through volcanic ash, and somehow made it out alive.

Military pilot here. I was on a flight leaving Sigonella, Italy. Mount Etna had been erupting for the past 4 hours but ATC cleared the southern sector to be free of volcanic ash. We flew directly into an ash cloud at 2000 ft remaining in the volcanic ash cloud for over 20 minutes. We had no luck climbing and punching out of the ash cloud so we ended up doing an emergency descent to 1000 ft to get out of clouds. We started experiencing engine malfunctions and had to secure 2 out of our 4 engines. Unfortunately in Europe, ATC is not responsible for obstacle clearance and we received a vector that would have flown us straight into a mountain. We caught the error and navigated back to the field to conduct a 2-engine emergency landing without incident.

I literally expected every engine to cut out. I didn’t expect to make it out of that volcanic ash cloud alive; look up what volcanic ash does to jet engines.

5. A flight deck window popped out.

My mom is a flight attendant and has been since the early 1970’s. She was on a flight home last month, and as they touched down, the entire window on the co-pilot’s side of the flight deck popped out from it’s frame and fell away. Luckily they remained calm and neither pilot was injured. She has complained before about some of the shitty mechanics that get hired to work out of the smaller hubs….

6. Lost all electrical power, something pilots don’t even train for.

Pilot of an Airbus 320 here. Flying into a high elevation port in Asia 23000feet on descent had a TOTAL loss of electrical power. All screens went dark including standby instruments and emergency lighting. To put this into perspective airbus designed this aircraft with three electrical generators in addition to power supplied by batteries and the emergency generator. It is designed NEVER to be without electrical power even if BOTH the engines failed, you ran completely out of fuel and the auxiliary power unit is in operative. It’s a scenario pilots don’t even train for because its never suppose to happen.

After a partial recovery of our screens it was followed by 12 consecutive warnings associated with different onboard systems. We landed safely. Passengers didn’t notice a thing apart from the lights temporarily going out in the cabin.

The car analogy would be you driving at 100 km/hr on a highway and suddenly all your windows are covered up, you lose your speedometer and all electrical systems, there’s no response from the brake or accelerator. But you can still feel the car going.

7. Spent an entire flight weaving through thunderstorms.

I was flying from Boston to Columbus Ohio, and in between us was a HUGE line of thunderstorms. In events like that, ATC will, in short, let you draw your own flight path to dodge the intense weather cells. The plane has weather radar in the nose and gives us a visual map of red “spots” to avoid. The flight was 3 hours long and the Captain and I were spending every second of that time flying up, down, left, and right, dodging lightning and turbulence. Sweat was pouring down my face as I was using my best judgment on which direction to fly. We must have done a good job because the flight attendant called up to the flight deck to say all the passengers were sound asleep!

8. Taking flying lessons when the co-pilot began to choke.

My mother got me a flight lesson for my birthday one year. It was at a small private airfield, and we were in a cessna skyhawk, don’t remember the number. It was the instructor and I in front, and my mother in the backseat. We did a few touch-n-gos, some basic skills stuff, and then we were just chatting and enjoying the ride heading back to the home airport. It was very relaxed and I commented how unexpected easy it is to fly a plane. The instructor had a bag of pretzels, which he then proceeded to start choking on. My mother became a basket case and was trying to Heimlich him from the back, which was ridiculously ineffective. I was basically leaning over and punching him in the back and the plane was descending rapidly. He got the thing down finally as we were on the verge of stalling. Never took another lesson, and I fly as little as possible now.

9. A story from a weather guesser on September 11th.

My twin brother was in the (ch)Air Force as a weather guesser. He started his career as a C-141 crew chief. He was flying back from Ramstein Air Base to the USA. They had just passed land and was over the Atlantic. He got freaked out when they started dumping fuel. Then they started a slow turn around. Not many passengers noticed the fuel, but most noticed the turn. He was mentally preparing to find out if the plane was being hijacked.

This was the morning (US Eastern time) of September 11, 2001.

10. Pilot accidentally told the entire flight “Mayday, Mayday,” instead of ATC.

Kind of the opposite, but my friend was on the Icelandair plane, which had engine failure over Scotland and had to return to Glasgow airport.

The passengers would not have been oblivious per se – apparently the plane shook lots and the engine shot a jet of flame out of it, and of course they knew they were returning to Glasgow.

However any chance of remaining obliviousness was removed when the pilot accidentally broadcast “Mayday Mayday” across the passenger intercom rather than to ATC. Oops!

11. Hitting a bird upon landing.

My dad is a pilot for one of the major airlines. About a year ago they hit a bird on approach. Nothing bad happened, but it made a pretty big dent in the nose and there were bird parts everywhere.

12. Luckily found out right before takeoff that they were going to fly with a faulty engine.

Commercial pilot here. During training was flying a Piper cub(single-engine). We had just taxied to the active runway and were doing our run-up(pre-takeoff check). Finished the run-up, everything was functioning normally, all gauges on the green. Atc advised us to hold short of the runway due to approaching traffic. Just as the approaching traffic landed and we were about to get cleared for takeoff, our engine dies with out warning. Me and my instructor look at each other thinking, what the fuck? Look at the gauges. All gauges still on the green, fuel pump on, mixture rich. So weird… Needless to say, we aborted the flight.

If we had that engine failure a couple minutes later, we would have been airborne with too much altitude to land on any remaining runway and not enough altitude to circle around.

13. A pilot who had a seizure while flying.

Then there was the time a student had a seizure while taxiing his Cessna 172 and taxied right into a $20 million jet parked on the ramp. The student was fine, but both planes heavily damaged.

14. A pilot who was on a different frequency from another plane approaching them.

Commercial pilot, not for the airlines, but fly small planes and had passengers with me. Approached for landing at a familiar airport that was uncontrolled (no ATC). Pilots should announce their positions and intentions, but it isn’t required by law. I started announcing my position 10 miles out, and gave a lot of updates while I was inbound about my direction, position, and intention to land on a particular runway. No one else was on the radio frequency, so I landed. Just after landing, another airplane takes off over my airplane going the opposite direction. I checked my frequency to verify I had the right frequency tuned. I did, and I chewed the guy out over the radio, and there was no response. He may not have been on the right frequency.

15. A pilot who received a bomb threat while flying.

I do hope the pilot comes on here who first shared this experience in a previous AskReddit, but he said he received a bomb threat while going on a long stretch over the ocean. Couldn’t do a single thing about it, except to wait it out and hope to god it wouldn’t come to pass. None of the passengers knew.

16. A pilot who shared too much with his passengers.

I was just on a flight where the captain shared something he probably didn’t need to. “Ladies and gentlemen, sorry about that turbulence, we are flying through the wake of another aircraft that I can’t quite see up ahead.”

17. Watching a recently ascended plane’s engine light on fire.

My father is a pilot. He worked for a small private airline company at the time and I used to go to work with him when I was 13 because I got to chill and do work/ play games while looking at the incoming and outbound aircraft.

It was cool to see a plane take off and think to myself “Wow my dad is flying that sumbitch.”

Well, one day he took off and as I was watching his right engine explodes into flames. I nearly shat myself watching that. In other news, I got to see airport emergency services respond to that as soon as he declared an emergency landing.

He made it out fine but it was a scary ass sight to see.

18. A story from a WWII bomber pilot.

My grandfather was a bomber pilot in WWII. During one of his missions someone fucked up the formation and ended up dropping bombs above his aircraft. He said he could see bombs flying past to his left and right.

19. A suicidal pilot.

My Dad is a pilot but not a redditor. For years he worked with a first officer known as the crazy guy in the company. He was creepy and often talking nonsense to himself. One day, the guy seemed increasingly agitated whilst flying with Dad. My dad felt scared that the pilot would attempt to dive the plane into the ground. When the guy snapped out of it, he whispered, “Not today…think happy thoughts…not today…” Rest assured, the pilot no longer has his license.

20. A pilot who made a whole series of mistakes at once.

B737NG. During climb, the cabin failed to pressurize. The second I heard the alarm sound I dived for the oxygen mask lightning quick. So quick that I elbowed the control column which disengaged the autopilot. Not my finest moment. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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Charlie Shaw

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