Maddie’s return flight home on United Airlines took more than a few unexpected turns this evening including an interesting welcome home at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. Maddie is my 8-month-old daughter and she was feeling more than a bit antsy during Friday evening’s flight home from Charlotte.
Midway through the flight, we gave her a bottle that finally seemed to the take the edge off and put her to sleep. Maddie slept for about 20 minutes when the pilot came over the intercom informing us that we were making our descent into Newark.
We were in the process of the normal approach when the pilot suddenly halted his descent and began climbing. He came back over the speaker and said, “Uhh, folks, we’re going to have to check some things out up here.” Maddie doesn’t speak yet, but this announcement seemed to command her full attention.
Much to the baby’s dismay, we spent the next twenty minutes flying in circles around the Newark area. We kept switching Maddie back and forth between parents, but we could not get her to relax.
Suddenly, the phone rang and was picked up the young male flight attendant right next to us. We were in the first row and thought I could hear the word emergency in the conversation the pilot was having with the flight attendant. Surely I must have been hearing things, but there we were, not circling the airport but flying around New Jersey.
The baby was getting increasingly restless when the pilot announces that we will be on the ground in three minutes. As soon as we touch down, we can see more than 15 fire trucks and multiple rescue vehicles lining the right side of the runway. As we begin to slow down, these teams of first responders and firefighters are peeling off and escorting us down the runway.
These emergency vehicles are packing in behind us as the announcements are coming on like nothing out of the ordinary is going on. So here we are with a train of emergency vehicles shadowing our every move as our jet is directed away from all the other aircraft that are parked on the tarmac.
Now the emergency vehicles are pulling up on either side of the jet as we await our fate. The flight attendant pops the door and a Port Authority Official rushes into the cockpit to talk with the pilot.
You can hear the pilot say, it was on the screen and then it just went blank. The officer turned back to the flight attendant and told him to let the passengers go. No one wasted any time getting off of that flight. As soon as we got Maddie off of the plane, she was suddenly as cool as a cucumber. I wonder if she knew something that United Airlines had obviously forgot to tell the rest of us.