What's Your Most Ridiculous Airplane Horror Story?

I consider myself extremely lucky because most of my flights have been relatively stress-free and uneventful. Except for that one time—that one time when I realized that there was such thing as hell on earth.


Since I’m not a bad person, I won’t name the airline that fucked me over. Instead, I’ll make up a name for it: Flair Zanada. Here’s what happened.

Last February, I was in Ottawa to catch the last weekend of the Winterlude. It was fun! Then it came time to fly out of Ottawa back to LaGuardia. So we get to the Flair Zanada terminal, check our bags, go through security and get to the gate. We’re a little early for the flight, so we sit at the bar and have a drink to wait. The weather report says that there is a snowstorm in New York presently, but our flight isn’t delayed. Lucky us!, we stupidly congratulated ourselves, taking deep swigs of Canadian lager.

After boarding the plane, nothing goes amiss until we are ready to begin the descent into LaGuardia. The pilot comes on over the PA and says that there’s snow on the runway, so we’re gonna circle for a bit before we land, see if the ground crew can clear it up.

Forty-five minutes of circling later, the pilot comes back on over the PA and says that the conditions are too awful, so we’re going back to Canada.

A numb silence settles throughout the cabin. The flight attendant is snappy, already defensive against the onslaught of complaining she knows is coming.

We land and deplane. A Flair Zanada employee meets us as the gate, all ready with an armful of brochures. We take one. Inside, it reads how sorry Flair Zanada is for the inconvenience, but since it’s weather-related, they aren’t responsible. They will put us on the next flight out (early afternoon the next day). We’re on our own to find lodging. They try to make us go through customs (why??), but thankfully a kind soul just waves us through.


I understand that the weather was outside of anybody’s control, but the hard and cold way we are just herded off the plane is extremely off-putting.

Since the storm is moving northwards, we don’t want to chance it—they might cancel that flight also. No sense in paying for a hotel room and then finding that the next flight is also canceled. Would the storm strand us? We demand refunds for our plane tickets and baggage fees and try the rental car agencies. Nobody has any cars. Shit shit shit.


Finally, we take a taxi to the Ottawa train station and catch a last-minute train to Montreal, where we are picked up by my boyfriend’s family, who has been driving home to Burlington, Vermont, since that afternoon.

We spend a night in Vermont and rent a car from the Burlington airport the next day. We drive it back to New York and return it. What was supposed to be a two-hour flight turned into a 33-hour travel marathon.


And the cherry on top? We checked the flight schedule for the afternoon flight that Flair Zanada tried to put us on. Canceled because of the snow.

Anyway, that’s my story. What’s yours?

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.


C-5M Load Smasher

My worst is probably more than most have ever experienced. Brake fire.

Rewind to 2009 I think. Bagram AF, Afghanistan. My unit is in the middle of a stage where we move one Army unit worth of Helicopters into theater and for everyone that goes in, one comes out. Pretty simple. Not this day. This day sucked.

We alerted and stepped to the jet, a big beautiful C-5B, my first love. We load and secure our cargo for the day, two Chinooks and two passengers. Everything went well. Fast forward through engine start and taxi and we’re now getting ready to take off. I’m standing at 7R (one of the troop doors) so that upon takeoff I can scan for threats and call out flares if needed. All standard. Throttles get pushed forward and the pilot is calling out speed checks as we rumble down the runway. Go speed that day was something around 140 knots. At 120 knots I hear words I’ve never heard before, “REJECT, ENGINE OVERHEATING”.

At this point I’m confused but I’m smart enough to somehow bear hug the door bar and hold on because what happens next borders on violent. Pilot slams the two outboard engines in full thrust reverse and hits the brakes, HARD. Thank god I was holding on because I swear I went horizontal. After we stopped and turned off the runway I grabbed my backpack and ran forward to meet the Flight Engineer at the crew entry door. He hands me a pair of wheel chocks and says, “chock the nose, the brakes are over 900°” we never chock the nose wheels but it made sense because I don’t want to get anywhere near the 900° brakes.

So I run out the door and chock the nose. That’s when I feel it. The heat. So much heat. I turned and looked back, all of the wheels are cherry read and a select few are on fire. At this point my passengers are coming down so I grab them by the collar and quickly escort them away from the potential fireball.

Needless to say our flight back to Spain was delayed.