Are you afraid to fly?
Well, even if you aren’t, you have to admit that midair emergencies are terrifying, especially when that emergency involves the pilot.
So, when you hear an urgent query over the PA asking if there are any medical professionals on board, you’re gonna worry. A lot.
But sometimes, you have just the right people on board. You have to count on the training and ability of the airline employees, including the flight attendants, but you might also get some surprise help…
When United Flight 1637 took off with 151 passengers on board, it was a day like any other day, a flight like any other flight.
But about a half-hour into the flight, one man (who was going on vacation with his family) noticed the engines powered down and started to idle. Then the aircraft began to descend and turn to the right.
He was a little concerned. Why? Because he was off-duty Air Force Captain Mike Gongol, and this B-1B Lancer pilot knew a little something about flying.
Said Gongol, via Gawker:
“Over the public address system; a flight attendant asked if there was a doctor on board the plane.
A few more calls went out for medical professionals and the flight attendants were all hurrying to first class with their beverage carts and a first-aid kit.”
Not a good sign, right? At first, Gongol thought there was a problem with one of the first-class passengers. But after a fourth call went out for help, this one asking for “non-revenue pilots,” Gongol realized the patient was the pilot.
He also saw Linda Alweiss, a nurse on board (pictured above), coming forward to help.
Gongol knew what he had to do, so he rang his call button. From there, he worked with the first officer to get the aircraft down and save 160 lives.
“After they moved the pilot, I was asked by the first officer, ‘are you a pilot,’ which was quickly followed with ‘what do you fly.’
I knew she was in a serious situation and that question gave her five seconds to judge if I would be useful. I also had about five seconds to asses her, ‘was she panicking, or was she OK to fly the aircraft?’
We both finished our silent assessments, she made the right judgment and told me to close the door and have a seat.”
Gongol did not land the aircraft on his own but was instrumental in getting it down safely and when it was over, he praised the first officer:
“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be.
At the beginning, I interrupted her flow of operations, but we figured everything out extremely quickly. She was very impressive.”
See? Sometimes, you have just the right people on board.