In Case of Emergency Break Down

Drawing by Phil Noto

“Thank you for flying, United,” I said to every one of the passengers as they deplaned onto the jet bridge leading into LAX, Los Angeles’s bustling airport.  Before deplaning the Airbus 320, an elderly couple stopped in front of me and the wife said,

“It’s disgraceful that you have taken us out of our way. I will never fly this airline again!”

I was taken aback.   As the wife marched away with her husband scurrying behind her, I said, mustering up all the graciousness I could,

“I apologize for the inconvenience.”

At this late hour, what I wanted to say to the couple as they disembarked from flight 665, was this;

“What would’ve been disgraceful is you two having your asses on fire as the plane went down in a ball of flames!”

but I didn’t.

I remained composed and continued my goodbyes to the deplaning passengers. I understood, however, why the couple was angry.   We took away an hour or more from what they probably thought was their short time left here on earth.

Diversion Airport: LAX

About 3/4 of the way into the four-hour flight, the Captain informed me he no longer had control of the flight instruments.   The Airbus, a fly-by-wire aircraft, computer malfunctioned and he couldn’t tell if the plane had brakes or landing gear.  He said, if we were to survive an emergency landing we would need to land on a long runway.  Orange County, CA our original destination couldn’t accommodate us. We would, instead, divert to LAX which was an hour or more away.

I secured the first cabin. I shared the information with my crew and told them to await further instructions from me or the captain.  The captain made the announcement about the flight’s diversion to LAX and advised the passengers of a possible mechanical problem.  We didn’t alarm the passengers unnecessarily and the flight continued as if it were routine.

LOSE THE ACT

As I mentioned in the post “eHarmony | The 20 Percent” I learned that my personality traits were in fact a traitor to me when I didn’t have control of my emotions.  All it took was a perfect specimen of man entering my life who knocked me off my feet and I lost it.

I just didn’t know how to act.  You know that saying “get your act together”?  Well, your act is just that – an act and it only works when you are in control of your environment.   When you have no control such as in an emergency, then what?  Most of us will have a “break down” and the real you will appear.

8 years had passed since my meltdown with “Mr. Golden Aura”.   Four years working as a Flight Attendant and now I had training in how to respond to an emergency when my “act” failed me.   I learned how to move through emotional outbursts without trying to control them.

CONTROLLED CHAOS

Think of the word Chaos.    Merriam-Webster defines Chaos as a state of utter confusion.

Now think of Chaos in the form of an acronym, CHAOS – and this is what helped me when my act exited.

 

  • Clear
  • Head
  • Assess
  • Observe
  • Situation

In Initial Flight Attendant training, there was one phrase our supervisors and trainers emphasize in every lesson.

“Control what is within your control”

Once I cleared my mind and assessed and observed the situation, I then determine the one thing I had control over was my thinking – and that’s was the one thing that helped me find a solution.

In this situation, I put away everything that could become a projectile.  I checked my emergency equipment, I did a silent review of my evacuation procedures and I made sure all the carts were secured because those too could become weapons in a crash or block an exit.  You see where I’m going here.

Of course, I was afraid but experiencing the emotions doesn’t cause the disaster it’s trying to control yourself from displaying the emotions that does.

EMERGENCY AVERTED

Once we began our initial descent into LAX, the captain informed me the computer rebooted. The plane’s activity was visible and we landed without incident.  Customer service representatives chartered a bus for the passengers and took them to their original destination, John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange county, California.

As the Lead Flight Attendant, I never had to prepare the cabin for a land emergency (a gentle term for a crash).  In fact, when I spoke with the captain once we were on the ground, he thought I didn’t understand the severity of the situation. I assured him I understood perfectly – but my goal was to evacuate the passengers if need be …and I couldn’t do that if they were visibly shaken because of a crash that “might” happen.  You see, in an impending plane emergency, the flight attendants become the “entertainment” because all eyes on them.  If the flight attendants are crying then the passengers will be terrified and that lessen the chance of them cooperating when it’s time to evacuate.

Since we aren’t all afforded emergency first response training; remember, in an emergency or when you’re experiencing a personal break down, try CHAOS (Clear Head; Assess Observe Situation) and control your thinking.

Thank you for reading!  If you find any typos, grammatical errors or editorial corrections please indicate in the comment box below. 

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