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Witness to mid-air emergencies! And how they were handled – Part I
The very thought of an emergency happening, while one is airborne sends a chill down one's spine! These are few of my own experiences.

A medical emergency:

We were on a direct Indian Airlines Airbus flight from Delhi to Madras. Midway, the captain announced that there was a medical emergency on board and doctors if any on the flight may reach a particular row. The passengers were requested to get up and move away from the stricken patient and not crowd around.

In the meanwhile, the cabin crew very professionally and coolly had rushed an oxygen cylinder and a mask and fitted on the cardiac patient. Two doctors among the passengers got up and reached the row. An air hostess was also holding all the necessary instruments for blood pressure etc and also a stethoscope. Another air hostess was holding a box full of life saving vials and syringes.

All the seats in the row of the patient were flattened. So also the seats of the row ahead and behind! Now the passenger was lying flat, with plenty of breathing space around him. Doctors chose the life saving drugs and injected him. The patient's feet were raised by adjusting the footrest of his chair, just the way in most cardiac situations the hospital bed is adjusted. The doctors quietly discussed, as to what had to be done next.

In the meanwhile, the captain announced that the plane would make an unscheduled landing at Hyderabad. The Air Traffic Control at Hyderabad had been informed. Ambulance with doctors was ready to reach the tarmac as soon as our plane landed. When the engines switched off, the rear door of the plane was opened. Before we realised, four persons with a stretcher were raised up, by the cargo hydraulic platform.

Within minutes, with the patient in the stretcher, they were lowered to the ambulance, with our two doctors in tow. Our doctors briefed the ambulance doctors and came up. The ambulance was already speeding off to the hospital. The plane door was closed, and before we realised the plane was ready to continue the flight to Madras.

A life had been saved and we were so relieved and joyous. Suddenly, there was a festive atmosphere in the air. Before buckling, everyone spontaneously started clapping and pumping hands with the crew and the doctors. The kudos were well deserved.

My respect went up for the training the crew members had received, and the cool professional manner in which they had acted and coped with the emergency. It is reassuring to know, that on today's flights, sufficient life saving medicines and equipment are provided for, with trained crew.

A mid-flight bomb scare:

Once again, this was a direct late evening flight from Delhi to Madras. After cruising for quite some, the captain announced that a message had just been flashed that there was a bomb on the flight. We were to remain calm and brace ourselves for a hard landing at Hyderabad.

We were instructed to buckle and lower our heads on to a pillow in our lap. The plane would be braked immediately, as soon as it touched the tip of the landing strip. Far away from all other parked planes! For quite some time now, all the emergency and exit lights had been flashing!

From the air, we could see a row of flashing ambulances and fire engines, on both the sides of the start of the runway. As soon as the plane touched the runway, it applied the brakes and the entire structure of the plane rattled like hell. The noise could be heard inside the cabin. We were shaking as if a major earthquake was on. We could see the wings swinging. I thought the plane would crack into two.

From the windows we could see that smoke and sparks were flying out from the tires. The plane had taken a real beating, till it came to a stop. Then the crew quickly opened the exits and the sliding chutes opened out, for passengers to slide down. We could already smell the odour of burning rubber!

After the plane emptied in the darkness, the luggage hold was emptied. With the headlights of some of the ambulances, we were asked to identify our luggage, which was sent to the airport lounge. One suitcase was left. The explosives squad cautiously kept the lone bag far away from us, on the grass. Did it contain a bomb, or was left unrecognised by a passenger, we did not know. The entire plane had also been scanned with the help of sniffer dogs.

We were all herded to the airport for refreshments. Seeing the type of bashing the plane had taken during this forced landing, it would not be air worthy again, I thought. We were resting duly shaken up, wondering when alternate arrangements would be made for us to reach Madras. To my surprise and disbelieve, an announcement was made two hours later, to board the same aircraft, which after all the mandatory checkups was allowed to take off again.

We landed safely in Madras after a smooth flight, though a few hours late – still in a state of disbelief! When better sense prevailed and my nerves were soothed, I developed a very healthy respect for the structural strength of today's aircrafts. And of course, for the cool professionalism of our aviators!

(To be continued...)

Read also: Witness to mid-air emergencies! And how they were handled – Part II

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