Al Steiner: Blog

Back to Al Steiner's Blog
April 15, 2007
Posted at 7:03 pm

Aircraft emergency

A very eerie case of my life imitating my art has occured in my personal universe these past few weeks.

As I was preparing to write the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14 of Intemperance II, I began looking into the hows, whys, and responses thereof, of moderate in-flight emergencies. If you've read the last two chapters of this story, you can see that the incident on Jake and Helen's DC-10 served several plot points - opening a rift between Jake and Helen, and, most importantly, being the catalyst for Jake's viewing of the band Brainwash.

Part of my research in this endeavor was to ask pretty much everyone that I run into in my day to day life if they've ever been on an aircraft where a problem occurred. I myself was on one once where a tire blew as we were taxiing, but that hardly seemed the sort of thing I was looking for. My enquiries included several very frequent fliers, including my own brother (an accountant, and the basic accountant personality model for any and all accountants in any of my stories), who has been flying at least four times in any given month for the past 15 years and who has so many frequent flier miles accumulated that he was able to fly me and my father to Los Angeles a few months ago to catch a Dodgers game for free.

Anyway, after talking to all these people about in-flight emergencies, the best I could come up with was a story from a co-worker who told me about his friend's cousin who had once been on a plane where an engine had gone out - not very useful at all. And so, doing what I normally do, I just tried to imagine what I would feel like if I were on a plane where something had gone wrong and wrote that. Such is the description that can be found in chapters 13 and 14.

And then, after writing the first part of the incident in chapter 13 and posting it, and after composing all of the aftermath of the incident to the part where Jake and Helen end up at the Fireside Lounge, my own wife needed to fly to Omaha for a few days for some business involving her family (another long, drawn-out story that, while interesting, serves no purpose in being described here). She chided me several times for showing her the part about Jake's experience on the DC-10 just before she got on a plane.

She flew to Omaha without incident, including a connection in Houston (which she described as 'the armpit of Texas' - my apologies to those who live there). On the return flight, however, just as the 737 was starting its take-off roll at Omaha's airport, she happened to be looking at the window at the right side engine and saw white smoke start to emit from it. Since it was snowing there at the time, she initially assumed it was just water vapor. But then, the smoke turned black and the engine began to make a strange noise. Just as the nose started to rotate off the runway, the pilot suddenly slammed it back down and hit the brakes, bringing the plane to a shuddering, grinding halt. An aborted take-off due to an engine malfunction. Not exactly what I'd just written about, but pretty damn close.

As it turned out, there was some problem with oil pressure in the number two engine and they had to go back to the terminal for an hour or so to fix whatever the problem was. My wife tells me that the pilot did indeed come on the overhead with a calm, soothing voice and apologize for the problem. They were indeed given free drinks by the airline and offered seats on other aircraft, hotels to stay in if they chose, and free vouchers for air travel for their inconvenience. My wife tells me that her first thought, upon seeing the black smoke, hearing the noise, and feeling the nose slam back down was: "My God, I'm going to die in an airplane crash."

She ended up staying on the aircraft while they fixed the problem and imbiding in the free drinks. They took off an hour late and flew normally to Phoenix, where she caught her connection back to Sacramento. When I picked her up at the airport and heard this story, I took her out to a Mexican restaraunt near the airport and she consumed several margaritas, becoming nicely intoxicated.

Like Helen, she was quite in the mood for love when we got back home and the sex was quite frantic and lustful. Unlike Helen, she was able to take the Jake Kingsley school of thought on the incident. She now feels that she is safe on commercial aircraft for the rest of her life and has no qualms about flying again.

In any case, I thought this whole thing was strangely coincidental considering the scenes I'd just written that deal with the same subject. Now, if I could only get some porn actresses to offer us a threesome?? So far, that hasn't materialized.