What a day this has been and we aren’t home yet!
We left Melbourne on a beautiful morning, had an on-time departure from Melbourne to Sydney and then an on-time departure from Sydney to LA. However, as we were building up speed on the runway, just as we took off, the plane blew a tire! It sounded like the plane hit some potholes on the runway and we didn’t think anything of it because we were excited to be coming home! We had a great view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House as we flew out, but we didn’t gain the altitude that you usually gain as you take off. A few minutes late the pilot made the announcement that we blew a tire and that we needed to return to the airport. However, to do that, he needed to dump some fuel over the ocean and land with near-empty tanks. So for the next hour or so, we flew in large circles out over the ocean with jet fuel spewing from the tips of the wings. Our seats were such that I could look out the window behind me and see this steady stream of liquid gushing out. It was a bit unsettling, to say the least. The pilot had assured us that we really didn’t need that one tire to safely land and not to worry. Later, he came back on the speaker system to say that the landing gear may have been damaged when the tire blew and that made things a bit more risky. He gave instructions to the crew to review the brace position with the passengers and the prepare the cabin for evacuation upon touchdown! Then time seemed to stand still, it took forever to see the runway and when we did it was lined with emergency vehicles. But, I am very happy to report that the pilot put that big plane down as gently as could be and there were no gear failures. The plane coasted to a stop and then we had to sit on the tarmac until the fire department determined that we weren’t on fire or about to be on fire. A large tow cart slowly pulled the plane to our gate where we disembarked. The plane was surrounded by emergency personnel and most of them had their phones out, taking pictures of our plane!
Was I scared? You bet, scared to tears! I am exhausted from the stress of the ordeal. It was not the way I would have wanted to end our time Down Under, but it is a blog-worthy event!
The plane crew was great during the whole 2 hours of our short flight. I wish I could say the same thing for the ground crew. United has put us up in the airport hotel and we had a better $20 dinner than we thought we would. However, United told us we were on our own for re-booking our flights. They provided us with a letter that included a phone number to call for re-booking, but that office was closed for the day when we tried to call shortly after getting the number. Jim worked very hard to get us some new reservations and he had success, but it didn’t come easily.
So, hopefully we’ll be home 26 hours later than originally planned, with no excitement!