One of the most horrifying anecdotes from yesterday's "Disturbing secrets of flight attendants" was from a pilot, not a hostie.
This makes sense. Whatever flight attendants may be hiding from you, your life is rarely in their hands.
Since I enjoy scary stories — and readership data suggests you enjoy being scared — here's round two, from the pilots. Happy reading!
The good old days
Muffingrinder has this tale to tell; "Not me but my dad, first years with Delta Airlines in the '90s as a navigator (back when they still had them) he was working a flight crossing the Atlantic and a passenger died (nothing dramatic, he was old and had a heart condition). This particular plane had a gap between a wall and a row of seats so my dad had to be the one to move the body there and cover it with a blanket. Some people were bound to notice but a portion of the plane didn't know until all the drama that ensued when they pulled up to the gate."
Redditor Giftofnarwhals reminds us why fear of flying is a valid fear; "I used to work with elderly people and one of my clients was a former pilot that finally quit when he realised in the middle of a flight his dementia had progressed and he couldn't remember where he was supposed to be flying to. Meaning he had been flying for a commercial airline with dementia for quite some time before that."
Many pilots had close calls at the beginning of their careers, like Plototicsux; "Had an engine die on me when I was adjusting to landing configuration settings. I was maybe 30 seconds out from the runway. My hand was already on the right lever to fix the issue. My instincts from using crappy lawn mowers as a child kicked in and I was able to restart the plane almost instantly with momentum from the propeller.
"My only passenger was also my flight instructor but it happened fast enough I wasn't sure if he realised it wasn't just me fiddling with the controls. I looked over at his face and he had been more scared than me."
TopGun966 has a thrilling story from their youth, "Mine is from many many years ago when I was a student pilot, only 14. Coming back through we had to pass through [Detroit Airport's] bravo airspace (you need permission to go through it). A few minutes before I was about to call for permission, my instructor goes really quiet. I looked over at him and he looked really bad. I thought he was going to puke so looking for a bag. But then I notice he isn't breathing.
"I figure out where I am at and call up Detroit approach. I declare a medical emergency and that my instructor was not breathing. I also told them I am a student and never landed on my own before, and never in a large airport. Detroit approach was amazing at helping me. They gave me an option for Detroit or Willow but Willow would have added a good 5-10 min since I was coming in from the southeast. Opted for Detroit and they were great at giving me vectors while also getting the big jets out of the way. I remember hearing them tell several planes to go around and several more to go into a hold. Anyway, did my approach and made the most butter smooth landing I have ever made in my life (even till this day). Ambulance was right there on the taxi waiting for me. Turns out my instructor (who was only 25) had a heart attack. He ended up being ok."
Nofetebutwhatwemake once had a challenging flight; "I'm a Certified Flight Instructor at this point and I'm flying with a student. We see a spider in the cockpit. I'm ok with spiders but I don't want it distracting the student so I mash it. Student missed the spider but saw my movement and asked what it was. [I told him.] Turns out the student is scared of spiders. For the rest of that flight I had to squish spiders [constantly] as they [were emerging] from a nest I had just spotted in the back of the plane. He never knew."
Many anecdotes related to smaller planes. Make of that what you will.
VigourousRapscallion says, "I heard my pilot in an Alaska bush plane tell another pilot he needed to get his emergency kit back from him before he was inspected again. The one with the fire extinguisher and GPS beacon."
8MAC wishes his small plane pilot had kept things to themselves, too; "I was once on a very small plane while in Costa Rica. Plane could only handle certain weight, so they weighed us holding our bags. About 8 people plus two pilots on the plane. No walls so you can hear and see everything.
"Someone says to the pilot, loudly, that they are a bit over the maximum weight. Pilot shrugs and takes off.
"I wish they had kept that secret."
Capilot had a close call in a small plane; "Taking off from Burning Man, with a couple of passengers. About a minute after takeoff, the engine died. There's a checklist you're supposed to follow, but I didn't follow it. I glanced at the gauges, saw the fuel pressure was low, hit the auxiliary fuel pump, and the engine came back to life. It happened so fast that the passengers didn't even notice it."
LookoutBel0w; "Commercial pilot here, I was flying myself and three passengers over the Appalachian mountain on a clear day. We hit some mild turbulence and the door opened to the cabin. The passengers all started panicking so I basically said 'Chill out guys, this happens all the time' and tried closing the door. I couldn't get it shut while also flying the plane so I simply landed at a nearby airfield and closed it on the ground."
Real talk: That does NOT happen all the time.
Californiahapamama is another person who overheard something she wishes she hadn't; "I had a similar experience as a passenger on Christmas Day 1997. Flight was fine until we passed the mountain range just north of the airport. From that point on it was like a bad rollercoaster. Most of us passengers were white knuckling it, except for my infant son who laughed at every lurch.
"I was one of the last people off the plane because I was having to haul the baby and his carseat off, and either the pilot or copilot came off behind me with a flight attendant, and one said to the other 'I wasn't sure we were going to make it down in one piece.' Not something I wanted to overhear."
Odgvbbv adds; "Not a pilot but a flight attendant. We landed, everything went smoothly, as we're deplaning the pilot steps out of the flight deck and goes 'Wow, I'm glad we made it, we lost two hydraulics on the way down.'"
Chopperguy has this cautionary tale around, you guessed it, choppers; "Robinson helicopters are known for having issues with "mast bumping" in flight. This is when the helicopter becomes momentarily weightless during flight, and can cause the main hub in the center of the blades to grind against itself and fall off. This could happen when you encounter strong turbulence or push the cyclic (stick) forward too fast. Robinson hasn't really done a whole lot over the years to fix the problem, except basically tell pilots to fly safer and avoid turbulence or dramatic movements. Many people have died from it. You don't want your rotor blades falling off during flight. Most people don't understand this can happen."
Mechanics have seen a close call or two at the airport; "[Once] we had a flight land and unload. As they do. We then went to work and had an inspection on the fan blades. So being a very routine check we pulled them all out not really thinking about it. Inspector came and started doing an eddy current test on the tangs that keep the fan blade attached to the engine with a pin. He's usually just looking for scratches, about as big as a hair, that could turn into a crack. Well this time he got to one and we just hear him say "Holy shit." Now usually that just means the blade failed by a large margin. Instead of a scratch the size of one hair its usually the size of two. Not really an issue as we just replace the blade. However this time he just says, "I don't even need to use the machine for this one.. Its failed." We take a look and one of the 4 tangs is just completely cracked. We have no idea how long it flew like that."
And yes, they have evidence.
This confession is for the unfortunate few of us who are married to someone in the airline industry, with an offensive acronym to match; "Divorce rates for pilots are exceptionally high. [It is referred to colloquially as] Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome."
VitiminNJ quipped back; "I'd go as far as to say most if not all the divorced pilots I've met would have been divorced regardless of profession."
As usual, it's the non-professionals who are the REAL problem.
"I thought I was going to have the month off but my boss made me secretly fly his wife to Florida so she could get her hair done even though he shut down the government and wouldn't let some other politicians fly on official government business. He's really an asshole and I hate working for him."
Guess who, don't sue!