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When You Kick The Rods Out At 1000 Feet, It Has A Completely Different Set Of Consequences In A Plane. I Almost Died!

When You Kick The Rods Out At 1000 Feet, It Has A Completely Different Set Of Consequences In A Plane. I Almost Died!

NOTE:  I’m sorry it took me awhile to write this. I wanted to do it earlier, but to tell you the truth the seriousness of it started sinking in a couple days later and it just didn’t feel right. The funny thing is, I’m sitting on a plane right now flying to Texas for my wedding, and suddenly it seemed like the right time to finish this. Weird.

I travel a lot. A lot a lot, compared to normal people. And the truth is I used to travel this much or more back in my corporate days, only I was flying in the front of the plane in First Class back then. Now, if being politically correct, I call it the Supplemental Restraint Section, because these are the seats where the people sit that are going to cushion the blow for the rest of us when the plane falls out of the sky and finds itself coming to rest in old “terra firma” like an oversized Lawn Dart. Despite my comfort in flying, I always know who is sitting where, where the exits are,  and who is going to be the dipshit that is responsible for your death, because they had to have an emergency row seat but can’t find their ass with both hands in an emergency, etc. On the afternoon of Thursday May 15th, I actually thought I was going to have to use all that information, when American Airlines Flight 2287 had an engine that blew up outside my window on takeoff. Here is how it went down.

On my way to Tulsa Oklahoma for the famed Throwdown in T-Town at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park, I had to make a stop at DFW airport in Texas. The American flight from Ontario California to DFW was uneventful as always, and because I only had an hour or so to kill between flights I didn’t call my parents, who live nearby, to come get me for a quick bite or something. Instead I hung out in the airport and waited on my flight. For this flight I was sitting in my preferred window seat, but a little too close to the Supplemental Restraint Section for my taste, in seat 15F. That happens to be the seat on a Boeing 757 that is directly at the front of the wing, even with the front of the right side engine. Normally I like sitting in the area over or just behind the wing. It’s the strong part after all, and if the plane did pull Lawn Dart duty you’d hope those big bastards would slow down the burial at least a little.

Sitting next to me was some guy in his 20’s who was making me nervous because he got on the flight at the last minute and was spending WAAAAYYYYY too much time studying his drivers license. What is up with that? Terrorist? Freak? Who knows. Turns out he wasn’t going to be a problem. Next to him on the isle, some average business guy who was a bit chatty, but fine. (Surprisingly the only time I don’t talk is when I’m on planes.) Across the isle from him was some dude that looked European, but was wearing a racing engines jacket with a Canadian flag and was with another guy in his thirties that looked like his son. I would later find  out they were from Canada and were going to Tulsa to meet with TRP Co-Owner Keith Haney to buy his Pro Mod Camaro.

Breaking the rules as usual, I was still sending emails and text messages trying to get more work done when the plane took off. After all, 3G and 4G service usually work up to around 10k feet in the air, so you have some time to finish up a few things. And I haven’t crashed a plane yet doing that, so I wasn’t worried. Paying no attention to anything in particular, I feel that we are turning onto the runway and feel the pilot square the big 757 up for a full pull down the runway. I glance out the window as the pilot mats the pedal (okay it’s levers I know) and off we go down the runway. As usual, people are chatting and paying no attention, myself included. I look down to finish sending a text, feel the nose rise, and look out the window to watch us leave the ground. This is the cool part of a takeoff normally, because it’s the only part that gives you any actual G-forces..

For the first few hundred feet, everything is fine, the big bastard is leaping into the air with the grace of the Albatross Orville from Disney’s ‘Rescuers’ move, when all of a sudden I start to feel a vibration in my ass. At the moment I realize I’m feeling this, the vibration gets really really bad and LOUD. Loud like me and Brian were on the wing swinging 15lb sledge hammers at this thing. Loud like 100 times worse than when you lie and tell your wife that you can do the laundry, only to load it wrong and send it hopping around the laundry room when it hits the spin cycle. By the time it is making noise I’m looking out my window to see the right side engine shaking like my dog after a bath, and the wing looking as if it really would prefer if the engine would leave. Looking back behind the wing, there is fire, smoke, and I’m pretty sure lots of aluminum flying out at a rapid rate. HOLY SHIT!!! This thing just kicked the rods out at 1000 feet!!! And the pilot must have been a drag racer because like every idiot on the track who tries to drive through the miss or shooting ducks, this dude stays in it for 10-12 seconds in hopes that it is going to “clean up”. WTF!?

Oh and did I mention that we’re not very high up at this point? Yeah, 1000 feet vertical is NOT good because the plane decides it doesn’t like to fly with one blowed up engine so it dips to one side and starts to drop. Like stall kind of dip and drop. We aren’t high enough to do any kind of normal stall avoidance at this point, and I’m well aware of where we are, how low we are, and how bad this is going to be if we can’t stabilize this bitch. (I say we, because I’m willing this flailing beast to recover so we can at least have a fighting chance at survival. I watched “Lost” back in the day, if those guys could survive on a magic island full of monsters, I can survive a hard landing in Burleson for an hour while waiting for the cavalry.)

With only one engine still with us, the pilot treats it like a nitrous motor with one hole going away…, and gives it more nitrous! The poor left engine is pissed off, but was apparently listening when I told it “we’re counting on you little buddy!”. (We would find out later that the left side engine, our only engine,  experienced a flame out when the right side engine kicked the rods out, and apparently restarted itself to be the hero of the day.)

At this point I am looking out the window assessing our current location, and am realizing that if this all goes horribly wrong we have no place to land this big bitch that won’t kill us or tons of other people, but despite rocking and rolling a bit, the clearly limping 757 was maintaining altitude. I opened up my compass app on my phone, and got our heading, ground speed, and altitude. Alarmingly we were only at 1400 feet, and were cruising at just 212 miles per hour. Only 50 miles per hour more than the take off speed of a the Boeing 757, I would find out after hitting up Google on my phone. There were varying numbers online for the 757’s stall speed, but considering that our 212 mph speed was dropping, I wasn’t looking forward to finding out just who was right. For those of you not in the know, the stall speed is the speed at which the planes stops flying. No bueno.

We’re less than 5 minutes into this entire adventure, and we’ve not heard anything from the pilots, presumably because they had much more important things to take care of than talking to us. At this point I’m thinking I need to let someone NOT on this plane know what is going on, and send a text to good old Mom and Dad who live nearby. Here is what I sent. “Weird takeoff in Dallas. Sounded like bad engine noise. Big shakes. Not sure, but think it kicked the rods out. Don’t call Daphne. Just giving you a heads up.” A few seconds later, “No word from Pilot but we are turning around maybe. Not sure yet. We are not climbing. Circling and may be getting back in the pattern to land. ”

Mom of course sends “Oh my god. Keep me posted immediately. I love you.” After a couple back and forths with the typical Mom telling me she loves me stuff, I send one back that says “Captain is on. Right engine blew up. Coming back to land. I called it.” Her response? “You always do. LOL Tell me when you are safely landed.”

Meanwhile the mood on the plane is anything but good. Nobody is in full Freak The Eff Out Mode, but people are crying, hugging, and praying like mad. It’s not until the pilots make the announcement that we have in fact “lost” the right engine, that people actually start questioning things. One woman sitting behind me opens her mouth and remarks that “It sure took them a long time to tell us what’s going on!” My response, in my normal quiet voice, was “Would you rather those dudes fly this airplane to a safe landing, or talk about our problems on the way to the crash?…Cause I’ll take the flying part.”

I was instantly the only intelligent person on this plane outside of the cockpit. Now it was armchair pilot time. Once the pilot indicated that we were going to circle around and land, some people became less concerned with their well being, and reverted back to the normal whiny bitches they are. My favorite was when the pilot came on just prior to landing and said that we were going to make our landing and then stop the plane as quickly as possible. That emergency crews would be on site and would immediately pull up to the plane in order to make sure we were not on fire. If we were on fire, we would be using the front and rear doors with slides to exit the plane, and to please leave all personal belongings behind.

I have to say, there was a part of me that really was looking forward to getting my slide on at this point. I think I was the only one.

Here is where the flight gets interesting again. We are coming in for our landing, with only one engine, and I make the assumption that since we only have one engine we can’t use the reverse thrust that normally slows a plane down on landings. After all, if you cranked that bastard up I would think you would make the plane turn hard on landing and that would be bad. Apparently I was right, because the pilot sets this thing down, with complete silence on board the plane, and then gets all in the brakes like he’s running into Canada corner at Road America with his ass on fire. I’m sure the pilot and co-pilot were both all in the brake pedals, and I’m sure that isn’t good for the planes brakes longevity, but let m tell you, this sucker stopped like right now. I mean head forward and snapped back kind of stop. It was awesome. But I digress.

So we have come to a stop, fire trucks are scrambling from their staging points approximately 1/4 mile away,, and they completely circle the plane. While they are performing their careful inspection of the plane to make sure that our right side engine wasn’t burning while attached to it’s fuel tank, aka the wing, miss mouthy “I wish the pilots would tell us something”, starts in and is at it again.

She says, and I quote, “Why are we so far from the terminal? Why didn’t they get us closer so we can get off this plane? We are so far away!”

Again in my normal quiet Chad voice, lol, I turn and give her the following sermon.

“Seriously? You don’t understand why they have landed us out here and stopped this far from the terminal? Seriously? Listen lady, if the shit went down and we came in hot and ended up in a fiery ball tumbling down the runway, do you think the people sitting in planes at the terminal, or eating lunch at Chili’s inside it will really give a fat shit that our intention was to get good and close for the convenience of off loading while they are all burning to death right with us? It’s called limiting potential casualties!”

I simultaneously became the guy nobody really wanted to hear from on the plane anymore, while at the same time becoming the guy most all of them were deciding they would follow if the shit went down and we had to get out of this bastard.

Being the media whore that I am, I made sure that this big bearded BangShift wearing talker was near all the television cameras in the airport. I of course made mention of BangShift.com, Tulsa Raceway Park, and the Throwdown in T-Town when I was being interviewed, but they cut that part out. Oh well, it was worth a try.

I’d like the say that was the end of my weekend’s flying adventure, but hours of sitting around to finally get on another flight to Tulsa was the easy part. On Sunday, after boarding a plane for DFW from Tulsa, our plane’s landing gear broke the front axle as we were being pushed back from the gate. We got pushed back to the gate, had several hours of delay, and then couldn’t get on a connecting flight back home to California without a jillion hour layover. So, I had Mom and Dad come get me and we ran around town and ate and stuff. Not bad, but a long weekend of jacked up flights.

With as many flights as I take each month, it’s not surprising, but that was an action packed weekend for sure.

A couple of things surprised me about the entire adventure though. First, I was impressed with the calm that most people had, but surprised at their almost immediate resignation to certain disaster. I guess it’s the fight or flight thing, no pun intended, but while my heart rate definitely went up and it was scary to think of our possible disaster, every ounce of my being was focused on what was happening, and how could I use that information to either understand what our options were, or how could I use that information to somehow affect the outcome of our situation. I was tracking our speed, direction, altitude, and GPS coordinates within moments of the engine shaking like a dog and throwing the rods out. I could not see anyone else on the plane who was doing the same thing. The law of averages would say that there surely were others on board doing the same thing, but given the response and comments from many on board, I wouldn’t have held my breath as a bet on that one.

Besides the relative calm, and people’s resignation that bad things were going to happen, I also noticed, and was incredibly alarmed by, what i would guess is a pretty good sampling of “average” Americans having no ability to think logically with regards to the potential outcome of our situation. The woman asking why we weren’t close to the terminal is just one example of the things I heard, and in fact one woman asked if they would “fix” the engine. Her husband said that he didn’t know if they could fix it without it taking a long time, but that maybe they would just take this one off and put another one on it. Seriously? I’m no aircraft mechanic, but I’m 100% sure that the replacement of an engine on a Boeing 757 is a little more involved and time consuming than putting a new one in a Volkswagen Beetle. It has to take more than the Bugs floorjack and 4 bolts to get out and back in.

I could be wrong.

In the end, we all got home safely, and I was on a plane again the next weekend. And the other people I was on the plane with? Well, the French Canadian guy that was meeting with Keith Haney at Tulsa Raceway Park actually spent several minutes of the adventure trying to convince his wife that he was in fact on a plane that was in trouble, as she thought he and his son were playing a joke on good old mom. It wasn’t until the next night when she saw a reenactment on tv that she actually believe them! We compared notes on the flight several times in the pits over the weekend as he and I were constantly being bombarded by questions from people.

As for the lady with the loud mouth and no concept of actual reality? I’m sure she went home and told the ladies in her Yoga class all about it. I can only hope she described this loud mouth with the big beard as abnoxious and perhaps condescending. And if this abnoxious condescending dude makes her think even one time about the reasoning behind something, I’m good.

And remember folks, kiss your kids, your wife, your husband, your parents, your dog, every time you leave them. You just never know.

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25 thoughts on “When You Kick The Rods Out At 1000 Feet, It Has A Completely Different Set Of Consequences In A Plane. I Almost Died!

  1. orange65

    Glad you landed safely- I bet that was concerning, to say the least.

    Your comments about the passengers makes me remember the saying “I don’t know if it takes all kinds, but we certainly got em.”

    I have found that if I start having problems on a flight somewhere, the whole trip turns into a debacle.

  2. Boss

    One very small typo changes everything.

    ” And I have crashed a plane yet doing that, so I wasn’t worried.”

    It might be time to turn off those electronic devices.

  3. Cyclone03

    To mis quote Ron White, “how far can we make it ? All the way to the crash site, and with any luck we’ll beat the fire trucks by half an hour.”

    Oh to use that line on an airplane, that lady behind you was ripe for that one.

    Chad, glad you made it and great job being the guy who stayed cool.

    Did it eat a bird or what? As an aircraft mechanic the left engine burping would cause me more concern than the right engines death, and is also most likely the reason for the silence from up front.

    The engine change would eat about 2 days, but only take about 8 hours (or less) the airline would most likely push an inspection or 10 up and hold it down for maintenance, like the “may as well’s” we get when working on cars. Anyway those people were getting another plane. lol

    Now a question, Had you been siting up front or on the left, not in site of the engine, how would you remain cool, calm, knowing only the plane shook, made a bunch of racket and is now no longer going up ? Your tool box just got bigger my friend. You ARE the guy to be siting with on a plane when TSHTF. IF ,or, when you sit in an Emergency Row ask if you can use the door trainer before you get on the plane so you know how to use it. Have you ever noticed at the end of the jetway a door on a stand? That’s it, the door trainer. Of course being you asked they will move you because they will think you want to step out for a smoke in flight…..

  4. Mark

    Back in the late 80’s I was on a 737 on a flight from New York La Guardia to St. Louis when one engine got extremely loud and the other shut down.
    The pilot came on a few minutes later to tell us there was an “indicator light” and that he shut down the engine just to be safe.
    We were at cruising altitude an hour or so into the flight and the pilot said we needed to land at the closest airport which happened to be Dayton Ohio.
    If fact we were so close that we were nearly over it, only problem is we were still at 35,000 feet.
    So we go into the mother of all decents, the steepest I have ever been on any aircraft, one engine WFO and screaming when the lady next to me says “I sure hope this doesn’t mean I’ll miss my connecting flight” Jesus, really?
    Long story short we also made it down safely, as we start slowing (very abruptly as Chad experienced as well) the emergency vehicles were rolling along the taxiway next to us before we had even come to a complete stop.
    They all went to look at the engines and didn’t seem to find much, I guess that pesky light was broken.
    Not finding any scorched smoking parts, they brought over the portable stair truck and calmly unloaded us onto a bus.
    I’ve gotta agree with Chad, I was really looking forward to the slides. 🙂

  5. TheSilverBuick

    Yup, flying the plane is more important than information dispersal. The most worrisome part really is, so you are looking at your speed and altitude, you still cannot do a damn thing about it except sit back and see how it plays out. That’s the nature of being a passenger.

    There is no shortage of people blissfully unaware of how reality works.

  6. Dennis Strege

    Good write up! I’m a retired professional pilot. They practice for these things every 6 months by law. The pilots probably spent a bunch of time on the phone to Operations, Maintenance, etc. Eventually they called their wives/husbands or whatever the case might be to let them know they are delayed.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. Daryl

    You were in no danger. That twin engine plane is designed to be able to lose one engine at rotation (the g-force part where it leaves the ground) and still stay in the air for a safe return. Also, reverse thrusters are not needed to land and stop, they just help save the brake shoes. The test is a fully loaded plane, aborts takeoff at rotation (most critical part of the takeoff) and has to stop using brakes alone. The shoes get so hot they catch on fire. The tires have special plugs that melt and let the air out of the tires slowly so they dont explode. I build em. My father breaks them (test division at boeing).

    1. Gregg68

      I’m not sure I entirely agree with that statement. Yes, the plane is designed to be flown (and even rotate/climb) on one engine; however, if that left engine hadn’t relit when it did, that plane would have run out of altitude real fast.

  8. 440 6pac

    Glad your OK. I’d rather have the pilots doing their job than yacking at us in a time like that. If they manage to get the nose down without crashing the rest of the plane will usually follow.

  9. Gil Baker

    Damn Chad, you have been living right ! May I offer my services to Bangshift.com as the official driver for you to future events. you sir, are a steely eyed world class racing commentator !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Bob

    It is surprising how many people out there are blissfully unaware of how anything like that works. Most people here on Bangshift site are mechanicly minded people so we understand these kinds of things but the general public dont even know how or why you would check the air pressure in your cars tires. We hang out with like minded people as well so WE are sometimes blissfully unaware there are so many out there that dont have a clue about anything mechanical

  11. Scott Liggett

    Chad, I always liked hanging with you at shows. Would love to go to one of your live broadcasts. But, I would have to fly separate. Sorry, dude, with your luck, I would not even be in the same airport as you.

  12. 38P

    The story for “AIRPORT 2014”

    See what happens when you use those “personal electronic devices” in flight! 🙂

    “. . . . all of a sudden I start to feel a vibration in my ass.” That usually happens about 30 min after a visit to Taco Bell (Insert flatulent sounds here) . . . .

    BTW, on a flight from DFW to TUL, why would they fly 38 miles Southwest over Burleson? Just asking . . . . Lots of nice places to crash and burn in Denton and Cooke Counties

    1. Chad Reynolds Post author

      Only because it was in a straight line with our direction after the engine quit. Not the closest for sure, but the only place I could think of without a house every 10 yards.

  13. OzzyFIFO

    We ‘Fly In Fly Out’ to Mine sites and Oil and Gas facilities here in Australia. Generally out of capital cities, to remote bush sites. (Meatloaf did sing “you’ll never drill for oil on a city street!) These jobs are usually even time (2 weeks on 2 off, 3 and 3 etc) A few years ago The chairman of our Aviation Authority did an interview espousing the virtues of air safety,, saying that you could buy your safety, purchasing a more expensive ticket with a carrier that had exemplary safety performance, or flying less. Not rocket science,Ii’m sure, but seriously, we FIFO’s fly more than 26 flights a year and don’ pay a cracker! This basic figure would not include various small craft flights to even more remote camp sites on dirt strips in conditions that include 45+ degC ( 120+ deg F ), not to mention the helicopter flights to troublesome or flooded wells. Multiply that by 27years at the job and I guess the law of averages is not equaliisng the Murphy Laws co-efficient. Hoefully not yet anyways (At times when complaints are made, the boss-man may quip ” there is a plane leaving everyday”) but few take that option.
    Had many close calls, and awesome adventures, including figurative nosebleeds at altitude in choppers (scariest of al,l as gearbox failure is common and with no “auto- rotate’ function in the rotors, a chopper will have a glide-ratio worse than a brick) and ultra low flying, buzzing camels and roo’s in a Cessna as though cattle mustering.

    My point, you may ask? That woman who wanted to be ‘delivered closer to the terminal after the emergency landing, may be heading straight for you in an automobile on an undivided highway somewhere, checking her hair in the mirror, so be careful out there and may we all hone up on the situational awareness skills that save our and everyone elses lives everyday on the roads.

    Awesome story by the way. Thanks for motivating me into writng this essay. Thanks and glory goes fto ruthless training, competency testing with currentcy and checklists, including cross checking, that preclude the non rational and illogical souls from the airline industry and motorsports

    p.s what percentage of woodducks would yuo think, already have the inflatable vests deployed with their highheels still attached when “crashtest dummy” descending the airslide?
    Haha “just breathe normallly” ” taking care that the exit may be behind you”

  14. Moparpoor

    Wow Chad you are living lucky, you should go by a lottery ticket, nice job wearing your bangshift swag on TV !

  15. Dubya

    You already know that the new chemtrails additive is knocking 25% off the takeoff performance. Then you use your phone AHEAD of the nacelles where the EMR can bounce around in the engine, happily unshielded. You say you usually sit behind the engine and have not crashed a plane with your phone; but now you are in front of the engine and nearly cause a double engine failure.
    Looks like a correlation between that important email and nearly causing the death of 200 people. I’m sure they would understand.

  16. VRMN8R

    I ” WILL NOT ” fly with a pilot that can not tell his “left from his right ” …… He must have been looking out the other right window ………. !!!!

  17. Jay Giesbrecht

    When a vehicle doesn’t actually have any rods to kick out, that metaphor only really works once.

  18. C Royer

    GOOD LUCK ON THE WEDDING–do not let a piece of paper affect the excellent relationship you have nurtured

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