We visited grandparents and great grandparents and a rarely-seen uncle in Ohio over Christmas and New Years. Our Saturday-afternoon flight from Cleveland to Denver (departure scheduled for 4:37 pm) was delayed for four hours by a mechanical fault. We had to deplane with all our stuff (and with three children after a two-week trip in Ohio that included Christmas presents, that’s a lot of stuff), only to get back on the plane with all that same stuff and sit in exactly the same seats. We therefore missed our connection in Denver, and United put us up in a nice hotel. We got there very late, but we got there. The next flight out to Everett, WA, was the next morning (Sunday), but it was booked solid. We were put on an evening flight (Sunday).
So we spent the day Sunday in Denver. I wanted to go to church, and I looked up options—I always like to see what other churches are like whenever I happen to be traveling on a Sunday. But the family was too exhausted. We had a nice, restful morning at the Gaylord Resort, a beautiful place with a view of the Rockies, and we rented a car for the afternoon to go do a wildlife drive and see downtown Denver.
Then we went back to the airport for dinner (we had meal vouchers) and our flight.
We got on the flight, relieved to finally be on our way home to Washington. We took off at 7:19 pm as planned. I set the kids up with rated G movies on their respective screens—a major thing they look forward to on long trips. And I began to write on my iPad: I had planned to use the flight to finish up a lesson of my Bible textbook project for BJU Press. I love writing on planes (I’m doing it now)!
But twenty minutes into our trip, the pilot announced that there was a problem with one of the wing flaps, and we were not allowed to climb to 30,000 feet and could not go on to Everett. “Safety first,” he said. We would have to go back to Denver. He said it would take 15–20 minutes. Soon he came back on to tell us that we were too heavy to land, because we were still carrying enough fuel to take us a third of the way across the country, so we were going to have to circle Denver for 30 minutes. My wife gets motion sickness during turbulence, so this was the worst news of the night for me. Circling Denver at low altitude is bumpy. I felt terrible for her. It was bad. I got her an airsickness bag; it’s all I could do.
Then the captain came on the intercom again and told us that we were going to need to spend another 15–20 minutes circling because the fuel hadn’t been expended as quickly as he thought. Worse news.
Then he came on again and said that because of the flap issue, we were going to have to make an emergency landing. The flight attendant took us through all the instructions for such a landing, including asking fire and police personnel to move toward the exits to help people in the event of a crash. My wife and kids were pretty scared; one started to cry. Two wanted to hold my hand. Adrenaline kicked into my wife, however, and that made her motion sickness go away! I wrote a text message to send to the proprietor of exegesisandtheology.com to let him know how to get into my computer and get my latest Bible textbook lesson in case we crashed; I hit send once we got low enough to access cell towers, but before we landed/crashed/who knew?
We were told to take off our glasses and wait for instructions to take the brace position. This is the first time this has ever happened to me in hundreds of flights. I hope it will be the last. I did have a tinge of fear on a flight for the first time ever. My wife, touchingly, told me that though she was afraid, she didn’t for one second experience fear over her eternal destiny. There was a time in her life, a terrible time, in which that would have been precisely her fear. (My littlest child was oblivious; thank you, iPads.)
We came into the Denver runway very hot, noticeably faster—and smoother—than any other landing I’ve ever experienced (I confirmed this with the captain later). It was faster and smoother because the left flap was not able to go up. Turns out we had to come back to Denver because they had 18,000 feet of runway—and we needed it all because we needed space to slow down after coming in so fast. Everett has only a third of that length. When we finally touched down (it seemed to me we hovered over the runway for a while), people cheered.
The airline put us up in the same hotel, fifteen minutes from the airport. They took good care of us, but it was exhausting. And I had to stay up late to finish my lesson; I hadn’t been able to work on it because of the turbulence and circling (circling while looking at screens gives me motion sickness). After what my Fitbit said was 5 hours and 44 minutes of sleep, we were up again Monday morning and off to the Denver airport for breakfast and our flight.
Today, Monday, Laura and I are on our third day of wearing the same clothes, because our checked bag was impossible to retrieve without a two- to four-hour wait, and each time we even had the chance to do so it was late at night and we had three small children with us who needed to get to bed—let alone a Mommy who needed to get to bed.
We had kids’ clothes with us in our carry-ons, and we luckily had used clean underwear and socks to pack Christmas toys safely into suitcases! I also take my toiletries with me in my carry-on just in case things like this happen. Otherwise we’d be smelling and feeling even worse!
We got on the plane this morning (Monday), and we are just about to land in Everett. My wife and kids missed their weekly homeschool gathering, I’m about to pay for two more days of too-expensive parking (that I hope to have reimbursed), and I missed a day of work.
But… we just touched down, and we’re grateful to God for a safe end to a pretty major family adventure.