After being out in CA for two weeks, I left Santa Barbara on a small plane to Phoenix last Thursday afternoon and I was finally on my way home.
When we got near Phoenix, it started to rain and there was small turbulence due to strong wind. I didn't think of it much since this is very usual whenever it rains.
It turned out to be very different this time....
As the plane was descending to Phoenix airport, the turbulence got very strong. The plane was shaking up and down, side to side like there's no tomorrow.
I can tell that the pilot was fighting the wind and was trying to keep the airplane head down and to maintain certain speed. I can hear and feel the extra acceleration on the plane whenever the plane was jerked around by the wind.
The fight lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and it was the longest 10 to 15 minutes of my life.
I've been traveling for last 5 years or so and this was in fact the worst turbulence that I experienced so far. All the passengers were quite and I could hear the F words once in a while from the passengers.
I was so frightened and was holding onto the armrest.
I then started to pray... maybe He needs me sooner than I thought but I was tell Him "but I haven't even met my 3rd child yet!".
The turbulence got even worse as the plane kept descending, fighting the wind.
Then all of sudden, the plane's head lifted up then accelerated very fast upwards.
Pilot immediately announced to the passengers that he could not land the plane and the risk was too high so we are going to near by Tucson airport for refuel and would need to try again later.
Few seconds later, the pilot also announced that they just shutdown the Phoenix airport and there will not be landing at Phoenix for any planes.
When we got near the Tucson airport, it started to rain again and there was another turbulence. It wasn't as bad as the one in Phoenix but it was bad enough to shook all passengers and make us hold tight to our armrests.
Pilot was fighting again as the plane descended. I don't think he had any choice since we were running out of fuel. The turbulence got worse and worse....
I could not believe we had to go through another bad turbulence back to back.
Pilot finally managed to land the plane at Tucson airport and all passengers cheered and clapped. As soon as the plane landed, one of the passengers pressed the "assistance" button for flight attendant and when the plane finally parked, many people got out of their seats to go to the rest room. (perhaps to dry their pants or change underwear?)
Apparently, one of the passengers that appears to be in the late 60 or early 70 had a heart attack. An ambulance came to our plane immediately and paramedics and fireman rushed into our plane with all sorts of medical equipments. After putting all the medical gears on his face and chest, they brought him outside the plane. I really hope he's doing better by now...
We were now stuck inside the plane on a side of Tucson airport. We could not park at the gate since we were not suppose to be in this airport. Within an hour, there were maybe 10 other planes that landed in Tucson because of the Phoenix airport shutdown. We finally got off the plane and had to walk against strong wind to get to the gate. It was very interesting sight seeing all these planes parked away from the gates and all these passengers coming down from the planes and walking against the wind to get to the gate. It reminded me of the Armageddon movie for some reason.
Tucson airport is pretty small... and now it was jammed packed with angry and frustrated passengers, eager to get home one way or the other.
I asked one of the crews if I can rent a car or if there was a shuttle bus that goes to Phoenix because I would rather get stuck in Phoenix since I need to be in Phoenix to catch a plane to NY/NJ. The crew told me that because the highway cuts across the dessert in Arizona and due to the strong wind, there's zero visibility while driving since the sand from the dessert mixes with the wind.
He also told me that there was 20 cars piled accident last week with 30+ people killed. For this reason, they shutdown the highway and believe it or not, it's safer to fly than to drive.
I waited at Tucson airport for about 5 hours then decided to raise the white flag. I went outside the airport then checked into a hotel. Wind and rain was gushing through out the night but was calm when I woke up at 5am to head into the airport. I finally made it home on Friday evening but was very exhausted...
It felt sooooo good to be home with my family that I missed for two weeks.
I'm not looking forward to fly again next week....
Here's a picture I took at Tucson airport when I got to the gate.