Flash Back – QUICK TRIP

I had a job to do in Kaduna and I was determined to do it and catch the afternoon flight back to Lagos. I arrived at the airport early to escape the struggle for a boarding pass having  learnt my lesson when, years ago, my wad of five hundred naira currency notes totalling fifty thousand naira had been stolen while I was struggling for a boarding pass. I was also one of the first to board the aircraft and made sure that I had my aisle seat. You see, as I grew older I was becoming a bit afraid of heights and therefore usually chose an aisle seat. A window seat meant that I had to look out of the window and in doing that realise that we were seven or more miles above the ground with nothing in between! Many years ago when I was much younger I enjoyed window seats, looking down to see those meandering rivers far below or the cluster of buildings as we flew over towns. In those days I usually burst out laughing when I remembered Pius with whom I had flown to England, my first and his first flight, on an aircraft they nicknamed the `whispering giant’ so many years ago. Pius sat on an aisle seat and would not look at the right hand side or the left hand side window. He had been that afraid of flying. He sat like that all the way to London, a journey that took several hours from Lagos.
Anyway, we took off and it was a smooth flight on a sunny morning for the hour or so it took to begin the descent towards Kaduna. But we stayed in the air so long that passengers began wondering. Then the announcement came. We were hovering around Kaduna because the undercarriage was not engaging. Then followed the explanation since most passengers did not know what the undercarriage was. The truth was that the landing gear, the tyres were not coming into position. Passengers cast anxious glances at each other. I was wondering, what next?
Not long after, the pilot announced that since the landing gear was not engaging we were turning and heading back to Lagos. And he added the shocker!  `In Lagos there would be enough fire-fighting and rescue equipment in case!’ You can imagine what effect that had on the passengers. Some began shedding tears. Others brought out their chaplets and began praying, some audibly. Even the air hostess who tried to reassure us did so with shaky voice. Fear was easily read on her face. I was worried and afraid and the journey back to Lagos was an opportunity to ruminate on my life. What had I done wrong? Why had I done this and not that? What happens to my wife and children? And so on! I was in a sort of daze when the hostess gave us the survival drill, heads on knees, do not bother about hand luggage or anything, just think of yourself, how to slide down the emergency exit raft. It was frightening.
I sneaked a peak at the tarmac as we were approaching to land thinking, so this is it. There were so many fire trucks lined up, ready. I thought, they are there ready to pick up our pieces if there were any. Then suddenly the plane landed, bounced up as usual and   then came down on the tarmac. No explosion, no fire! The plane simply braked to a halt. We were safe after all! As the pilot explained, an indicator had malfunctioned, causing all that panic!
The sobered passengers hurried out, some muttering, `Thank God.’ One elderly man swore, `I will never fly again.’ I was happy to be still alive and well. I hurried home to my family. The next day I took off by air again to do my work – in Kaduna. 

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