May 10, 2015
"Sir, can I ask you to sit in the Emergency Exit Seat?"
"SIR, CAN I ASK YOU TO SIT IN THE EMERGENCY EXIT SEAT?"
Twelve years ago this week, I took my last 14-hour direct flight from China. I had done so each quarter, for three years -- traveling from either Hong Kong or Shanghai to Chicago, Detroit or Newark. Living in both worlds -- China and the U.S. Doing marketing here.
But my life had changed. And this was the last of these grueling flights. Never a problem on any of the flights.
We'd been in the air 12 and a half hours. Stiff backs, stale breath, stuffed into economy seats.
Sitting about 5 rows forward from the back of the plane, I suddenly hear a stewardess, who I knew from previous flights, lean over to ask: "Sir, can I ask you to sit in the emergency exit seat?"
"Of course," I replied, getting up and walking to the back of the 747 stretch plane with her, where she motioned to sit in the seat next to the Emergency Exit.
She whispered: "Are you SURE you're comfortable handling the exit door and ramp? The pilot has informed us we've lost primary hydraulic controls. We're approaching O'Hare (Chicago airport) on backup. The runways and approaches have been cleared for our emergency landing."
I told her yes and within 30 minutes, the plane's nose was pitched up, and the pilot came on with emergency instructions for passengers as we made a shuddering final 40-minute approach.
There was no sound but that of screaming engines, shaking seats and loose luggage in the overheads.
No crying. No weeping. No anger.
No sound from passengers.
We hit the runway like a wall, stopping just short on the very last 50 yards of cement.
And broke out in applause for the Captain and crew.
Merry Christmas to all.
And to all a good flight