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8:29am on Wednesday, 25th May, 2005:



I've flown long distances in aeroplanes, through tropical storms in Asia and skirting hurricanes in North America. The worst piece of turbulence I ever experienced, however, was on a 45-minute flight from London Stansted to Edinburgh.

We were about 15 minutes into the flight. I was sitting near the front of the passenger cabin, and the sole flight attendant appeared with the water and fruit juice that she had just about enough time to serve us. Suddenly, the plane just dropped, vertically, for about four seconds. Four seconds, count 'em: one ... two ... three ... four. It's a looooooooong time to fall in a plane — gawd knows how much altitude we lost. The whole time, my insides felt like they do when I go over a humped-back bridge in a car. It was an amazing sensation.

There were screams from behind as people panicked. Some left their seats because they hadn't done up their belts. When we hit thick air again, the jolt was so strong there were creaking noises coming from the fuselage as it bore the stress. I looked to the passenger to my left, and he looked back with the same expression I had: "wow, amazing!".

Meanwhile, the flight attendant (who was German) was clambering to her feet, trying to right her trolley, with one eye closed because she'd lost a contact lens from it. Her hair was all over the place, I think because some retaining pin had fallen out. She hadn't opened any of the drinks, which was lucky, but she had to spend the rest of the flight looking like she'd just joined the mile high club.

It must be for moments like that one that drives some people to want to be pilots.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).