Last week I was on way from Kolkata to Delhi after spending time at ISOC IXP workshop. It was Jet Airways 9W 946 on 10th March 2017. The flight took off slightly late and 90% time went just fine. Original arrival time was 16:30 though it was expected to be little late.
At around 16:15 pilots announced “to prepare for landing” and cabin crew started collecting waste and getting people ready. I was sitting on the window seat and looking at clouds on my right. It was a usual view from the window and I usually like when the plane crosses over the clouds. It was little bumpy by 16:20 and that is usual behaviour. As it proceeded it went from “slightly bumpy” to “very bumpy” ride. Somewhere around 16:25 or so plane gave the first feeling of “free fall”. It’s was the same feeling as we get going down the roller coaster but 10x of that. Few people screamed. It reminded me of one of my previous travels from Malaysia to India in 2013 after APRICOT 2013 when the flight was very bumpy and also faced free fall at that time. Next after 2-3 mins plane had another free fall and it went for 10-15 seconds. A Japanese gentleman sitting next to me wasn’t wearing his shoes. One of his shoes literally touched my chest and fell on me. That was the first time I also got quite scared.
I looked outside and the plane was all surrounded by clouds and nothing much was visible. Again just like the Malaysian flight in 2013 I felt for few mins that I was about to die. There were screams of people all around, few of cell phones, pens, shoes etc got all around. One person a bit away from me was shouting for help for someone around him. Next, there was another free fall like feeling. Lesser than last one but everyone was scared by this time. I stop looking outside the window as it was very scary. I thought planes cross clouds and this kind of thing never happens. Probably it’s some kind of technical failure and that’s about it. I could hear at least 5-6 distinctive voices of people chanting Hanuman Chalisa (हनुमान चालीसा ) and a girl right behind was chanting Om Namah Shivaya (ओम् नमः शिवाए) and she was repeating it really fast. All of that was further giving a scary feeling to mind that time has come. It was a very bad feeling. I saw on maps on the screen in the middle part of the plane - we were flying around Ghaziabad and plane was at 5000m. Surely it was scary but at the same time, it was a feeling of regret about losing family members, people who we love, just about everything. I did not actually think that family members will loose me but it was a feeling other way around.
I realised I was way more scared this time as compared to the Malaysian flight and one of the reasons for that was the fact that I was on the Malaysian flight with my manager at that time. I wasn’t alone and we were speaking to each other at that time. I took my phone out while there were still bumps and wrote a message to my family members telling them that I was really scared. Next, I looked at Japanese gentleman on left. He was disturbed but very calm. He was silent and wasn’t showing any major expressions. I started speaking to him about bumps and “free fall like the feeling” of the plane. He mentioned that he was on way from Delhi to Kolkata a day back and flight was bumpy on that day too (of course less bumpy than the one we were in). That gave me a lot of confidence that it was just bad weather and nothing else. He asked me about what people are chanting all around and I told him the name of respective gods which people were chanting. Suddenly whole flight turned so spiritual. I felt much better by speaking to him and keeping my “I am about to die today” feelings aside. I asked him about his profession, he asked me mine and 2-3 mins passed with bumps. Next, I saw outside plane was out of cloud cover and within 10 seconds captain declared that plane was out of high turbulence and we can expect a smoother ride. There were zero bumps and no further case of scary free feel beyond this point. Some people were worried as the plane was about to touch runway in fear that something is wrong in the plane but soon after flight just landed fine. As the plane was out of runway and quite slow everyone was related. The person sitting on next seat looked behind and asked me for help to locate his pen. On the back side of the plane, there was a visible impact left with stuff lying all around. As we got out of the plane and were on way to terminal in bus people started talking about the experience. By this time there were a lot of “experts” saying pilot was in hurry to cross over. While hearing expert comments with a headache I felt I was back home. :) I slept for rest of my way which is from Delhi to Rohtak by road and that helped to get rid of a headache.
And that is how “I am about to die” feeling ended and I thought I will hanging out on Earth for a while. Long time, long long time! :)