Almost died last week. Was flying into Telluride airport on one of those prop planes designed to land at small airports and we got caught in a wind storm.
Telluride’s airport is on a plateau, and it has cliffs on three sides. It has short runways that have hills built in them to help planes stop. America West is one of the few options for getting here.
As we started our decent the airplane started experiencing turbulence–no biggie, I’ve been on hundreds of flights and experience this kind of thing before. However, as we start to get below the caps of the mountains around us the plane started shaking and swaying from side to side. Folks started getting nervous and after about 10 minutes of the plane gyrating folks started heaving and screaming.
There were not normal turbulence, these were flip the plane over turbulence.
As the pilot attempted to land–which was a total bone head move considering winds were gusting at 60 miles per hour–the plane dropped ten or fifteen feet and started to turn sideways. We were flying down the runway, about five feet from the ground, sideways.
Then it got truly horrifying: looking at the window we noticed that the plane was no longer above the runway! We had drifted off the cliff, the plane total out of control!
As we were dropping down the side of the cliff while flying sideways I thought for sure this was it. The engines started to make some really strange whizzing and groaning noises. I figured they were either fighting the crazy winds or the pilot had powered the engines all the way up. The plane straighted out and we were heading back up in the air.
The pilot came back on the radio and informed us that we missed the runway. Really?! I had no idea. The turbulence started again and we circled the airport, at which point I told the flight attendant that we better not be trying another landing at that airport. He agreed, and said that the airport had now been shutdown after a couple of aborted landings.
A couple of aborted landings!? WTF!?! Why was American West even attempting to land when winds are gusting like this? Why did we even try to land when other planes had to abort.
I’ve since done some research on the plane we were on, and the airports around here. Like Aspen these places are really dangerous because of short runways and high winds. You know what? Land me two or three hours away and let me drive (which is what we did), but to my friends at America West please don’t pull that cowboy stuff again.