Back in 2010 there 4 of us were jetting off to Florida for a lovely 2 week holiday. We were flying Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick on an early morning flight. Now although I don’t like flying I know if I want to go to nice places I have to fly. After the first hour I settle down an am OK. It’s not the highlight of my holiday though, but has to be done.
We all boarded the plane and all was fine. Everyone was excited because we were headed to Florida and the atmosphere was that of excitement throughout the plane. Children were excited to see their favourite Disney Characters and Magic kingdom. We all sat down ready for take off and then off we went. I’ve flown a fair few times now so I know what to expect from take off and landing. Usually after about 30 minutes the plane is up at cruising altitude and the seat belt sign comes off. Well not on this flight, after 50 minutes we were still flying through the clouds and didn’t seem very high at all. The seat belt sign was still on and I could tell people were starting to talk. I turned to my Mum and said that we wasn’t as high as we should have been after 50 minutes and her reply was “its fine” Knowing I was nervous. My Mum didn’t say at the time however she knew that something wasn’t right.
Right after I had spoken to my mum we felt the plane do a full u turn and the captain came over the speaker saying… This is your captain speaking, we have a problem with the plane and need to return to Gatwick. He didn’t say what the issue at this time. After another 30 minutes the captain came back over the speaker to say that, yes there was an issue however it wasn’t affecting the plane flying as such and as it was very dangerous to land with a full tank of fuel we had to fly over the sea to dump most of the fuel on board. We would circle above the sea dumping the fuel until we had a safe level of fuel to land with. To be honest by this point I was so upset and scared and so were many others on board.
We sat just behind the wing and the captain said that the fuel would be dumped out of the end of the wings and anyone sat behind the wings would see it coming out. Yes, we saw it and yes it scared the hell out of me. It came out about 10 times the speed of a fire hose and out of a very big hole at the end of the wing. We were dumping fuel at this rate over the sea for about 45 minutes non stop. I kept thinking we were going to run out of fuel and fall into the sea.
After dumping the fuel over the sea the captain came back on and said that we were ready to land back at Gatwick and not to be alarmed but the runway would be lined with emergency vehicles and fire engines. Well for anyone who wasn’t already scared then this was sure to scare you a bit, still not knowing what the issue was. We landed back at Gatwick and I was so relived we were back on the Tarmac, bit gutted it wasn’t the other side of the pond though. As we landed Fire engines and emergency vehicles drove down the runway with the plane and as we came to a stand still the plane just sat there. We sat on the end of the runway whilst they did loads of checks. Eventually after about 45 minutes we went back to the stand. The captain advised us that one of the flaps on the wing had become stuck up and wouldn’t go down. So whilst it wasn’t a Major issue it was enough to have to return to get it checked out especially as we would be flying over the Atlantic for 6 hours. The captain advised that they can take no chances flying over the Atlantic for so long as there isn’t really anywhere to go and land should it become more of an issue.
After another hour on the plane we were told that another Virgin Plane was being flown from Heathrow and we would have to swap planes. We were given plenty of food vouchers and were told to go get something to eat as they also needed to source new cabin crew. Eventually we boarded the new plane and set off again.
I have to say the full 9 hour flight I didn’t really settle but was glad we had transferred onto another plane rather than them trying to fix the broken one we were on.
This experience has made me feel even more scared to fly and I get very sticky hands when I now fly. It takes me longer to settle into the flight and any different noise I am so scared of. I do however think that surely something like this can’t happen twice, can it?