Monday, September 12, 2011

A Pilot Reflects

I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem possible 10 years have passed so quickly!   
A "good" part of my weekend was spent in quiet reflection -- uplifted, too, by those of you who shared your recollections and prayers .... far more poignantly than I might.  

One of my hubby's friends forwarded this e-mail yesterday, written by a former Delta commercial pilot.   I thought his recollections were very interesting, and wanted to share a portion of the story.

My experience on 9/11.

We were just ready to close the door for our Delta 767 flight from CVG to MCO when the gate agent came on board and asked if we had heard anything about a small plane hitting the World Trade Center, we had not, so she said goodbye and closed the door.

Shortly thereafter we were airborne climbing out on a beautifully clear crisp fall morning heading to Florida with not a cloud in the sky or a care in the world. I heard a bizjet ask for a reroute since he could not get to New York and I thought that was strange. Then another bizjet said "well I guess we won't be going there either" and asked for a clearance to an alternate.

At that point I asked center what was going on. There was a pause and then the controller came back in a very excited voice and said "they have hit both of the Trade Center Towers, they have hit the Pentagon, they have hit the Capitol and the White House"

...well you can imagine it got really lively on the frequency. I turned to my Co-Pilot and said "I don't know what has happened, but I do know that things will never be the same", and I think I got that right!

Within seconds the controller had composed himself and said all flights on this frequency standby, and it was dead quiet. He then said all flights are to land immediately and went down the list of the planes under his control..."American 235 turn right heading 230 you're landing at Pittsburgh, Continental 456 turn left heading 180 for Cincinnati, Delta 235 (that's me) turn right to 250 and descend to 8000, you're landing at Knoxville, airport your 2 o'clock 40 miles....etc" It was the best, fastest and most efficient handling I have ever had from ATC...they had everyone on the ground all over the country in minimum time.

After all the initial confusion, their professionalism, and that of all the flight crews was exemplary!   We spent two days in Knoxville and then ferried an empty 757 back to Atlanta and I believe were one of the first flights to land back at our main hub.

Our arrival at ATL was one of the most moving experiences of my flying career. The airspace was totally empty, there was no talk on the radio, and we were the only plane in the sky over ATL, the busiest airport in the U.S., but we did have, unknown to us until informed by the controller, an F-16 right on our tail, but we never saw him! When we taxied in the normally frantic ramp area was dead quiet, all the ground equipment, tugs, baggage carts, tugs, fuelers etc. were lined up in military precision and the ground crews were standing at attention and, I'll never forget that.

They needed a sign that things were getting back to normal...that we were moving and flying again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

... and the people said, "Amen!"


  1. Well, phooey. Google ate my comment. I hate it when that happens.

    I loved this and had never thought of the pilot's perspective before.

  2. This was so worth the read. Thank you for sharing and the rainbow ending touched me deeply.

    Love ya,

  3. Very moving Myra,I hadn't thought of the pilots point of view - very interesting. And I loved the rainbow at the end. Sandie

  4. This is so moving. I've never thought about the other planes in the air. What courage those crews had.

  5. Wow, what an interesting perspective from a pilot on that day. I do remember how eerie it was not hearing any air traffic those days. I was working in Sedona,AZ at a gift shop at the time and all the tourists were stranded and chatty. A day will will never forget.

  6. that was the scariest day ever, a day that will never be forgotten. Reading the pilots perspective.....they were all so courageous. And it was the day the nation came together.....

  7. This was very beautiful. What a wonderful and courageous person this pilot was. I wish our nation had stuck together thru the years. People seem to have drifted back to their old ways and no one cares much except when the anniversary rolls around. It makes me sad.

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