15 Pilots And Flight Attendants Talk About Their Scariest Flight Ever

1. The “Crazy” Psychic Flight

I was a flight attendant for three years, back in the late 2000’s for Northwest Airlines (now merged with Delta Airlines).

I will never forget my last flight from Minneapolis to Detroit in October, 2009. For starters, we had a self-proclaimed psychic on board who informed everyone that “this plane is going to crash and we’re all going to fucking die” by screaming it at the top of her lungs as soon as we reached cruising altitude. We ended up having to move her to a private section of the plane to try to calm her down and ease the minds of the panicked passengers.

Sure enough, we hit extreme, unreported turbulence as soon as beverages were passed out. Drinks were flying through the air, luggage hit a few of the overhead bins open and people were screaming and terrified (mostly due to the psychic in my opinion). A couple other flight attendants couldn’t help but crying. It was a horrible scene.

After an eternity we reached Detroit. Of course the runways were iced over and we slid nearly sideways after touching down (Again, everyone was screaming). I’m honestly surprised the plane didn’t flip over. When we landed everyone let out a roar of applause. Airport security boarded the plane and detained the “psychic”. I was so shaken up that I quit as soon as we unloaded.

The experience was so awful that the passengers AND crew members all received a flight voucher (the crew got a check for the same value). I think it was worth about $350.

Mystic Curse

2. Sparks Flew

Took off at night, right alternator light comes on right after takeoff. The aircraft instrument lights start flickering. My first officer is flying the airplane. I tell him to continue as normal until we reach a safe altitude to run the checklist.

As we’re climbing through 500′ I see a bright shower of sparks from the right engine. Passengers start gasping and talking. My first officer kinda freezes up. I say, “turn back.” He starts to turn the airplane the opposite direction of what we had briefed in case of an emergency situation.

I say, “I have the controls” and take over, and turn us on a right downwind. I tell him to tell air traffic control we need to return immediately. I turn the alternator off but the sparks are still flying. The engine is running fine though.

We were only in the air for a couple minutes, but the adrenaline was high for sure. Seeing sparks flying from the front of your engine is never a good thing. I was glad it was just the alternator though because it didn’t cause any power loss.

Turns out one of the mechanics that put the engine back together after an inspection forgot to tighten the alternator wire bundle down completely, resulting in loose wires contacting each other.


3. Inexperienced Pilot

We almost crashed coming into O’Hare. The copilot was pretty inexperienced and tried to touch down during an insanely fast moving crosswind. He should have circled around again. I was seated in the back of the plane (CRJ900). Both passengers next to me had a death grip on my hand or knee. Was covered in bruises. I’ve never seen a pilot so pissed off. He was cussing out the copilot the whole way to the hotel.


4. Passenger Door Not Locked

I’m a Flight Attendant on small 50 passenger planes (CRJ100/200’s). When there was about 40 minutes left in the flight, I get a call from the flight deck that they have an indicator reading that my passenger door is not locked. So I double check the physical deadbolt indicators on the door and two out of the eight indicators were a little misaligned. So to be safe, I stopped service and sat down for the rest of the flight, directly next to the door praying that it was an issue with the indicator up in the flight deck. I’m sure that my face was flushed for a little bit.

For the rest of the 40 minute flight, I was cracking down on every person that attempted to stand up and every seatbelt that I heard being undone. I didn’t want any unlucky people being sucked out if the door happened to suddenly fly open.

People started getting annoyed and started asking questions why the seatbelt sign has been on for so long, and I just told them that the pilots think there might be some major turbulence soon. Thankfully all was well and we landed with no issue. A few people getting off the plane were telling me how terrible the experience was and how badly they had to go to the bathroom and I wouldn’t let them. If only they knew….C’est la vie


5. Hitting the Runway

I’m not an airline pilot, but I fly small planes as I build my hours to get to that point. Me and a copilot were hired to fly a Cessna across the country. We stopped for fuel and on takeoff we got to only about 100 ft when the plane stopped climbing and started doing the exact opposite of that. We turned and lined up with a different runway but we were still coming down very hard and very fast. The plane hit the runway and then went off the side into the dirt and stopped only 70ft from where it first hit the ground, which isn’t much considering we were going at highway speeds. I broke 8 bones in my body including 3 vertebrae and was in the hospital for about 3 months as well. But despite this I still want to get back in the plane and fly again though.


6. Four Year Old Terror

Flight attendant here. Honestly, our planes are extremely well maintained and our pilots and air traffic controllers very well trained so the odds of something horrible happening in regards to crashing or malfunctioning are very slim. The worst thing that has every happened to me was being punched in the face by a very horrible four year old girl. That was genuinely pretty scary because I had never felt compelled to punch a child in the face before, really had to restrain myself that day.

And walking in to the bathroom and finding massive piles of shit in the toilet. I fly on prop planes and our flights are never over two hours, please just poo beforehand, I beg of you!


7. Holding the Door Closed

Not my story, but my mother was a flight attendant for Continental a while back. During a domestic flight one of the seals on a rear door either broke or came loose (It’s been a while since she told me the story) and basically her and another flight attendant had to hold it closed until they could make an emergency landing. She said it was so loud that she thought she was going to lose her hearing, and the sudden pressure change probably didn’t help. I’ll have to ask her to tell me the story again but I remember it terrified me as a kid.


8. Nap Time

Former commercial pilot. I was flying alone in a C182 with no autopilot on a fairly routine VFR trip.

It was calm air with a high overcast and I had everything trimmed out for level flight. I was listening to the smooth droning hum of the plane filtered through my head set, looking out at the non-vibrant scenery, having given up on finding any AM radio stations to listen to through my ADF.

And I fell asleep.

I shot awake in a panic, where am I, am I level, what time is it, okay fuck me where am I, okay I’m here on the map, that’s pretty much on course, everything is running, open up the cabin air vents.

I’d been dead asleep for 5 minutes. Still had an hour to go before my next airport.

I taught myself a very important lesson about fatigue. I almost because a puzzle for an NTSB investigator.


9. Watch for Skydivers

Private pilot here. I only have about 110 hours so far, so I haven’t had any near misses or anything regarding crashes/collisions yet, and hopefully, I never will.

However, I was taking my mother to breakfast at an airport about 55 miles from our home airport. This airport is uncontrolled, so I was making the appropriate self-announcing calls on the airport’s frequency and was scanning for traffic as well as I could. This airport shares a radio frequency with about 3-4 other airports, so when you make your call, it’s important to note at the beginning and end which airport you’re addressing.

With no one in sight, I enter the pattern to set up to land. As I’m about to turn left base ( diagram for those unfamiliar with traffic patterns ), I announce it on my radio.

Immediately after the announcement, some guy yells into his radio “LOOK OUT, LOOK OUT!” My heart drops, as I immediately think that I somehow missed spotting some other traffic (who perhaps wasn’t using their radio) and that we were going to collide.

Turns out there were sky divers being released at one of the other airports on the frequency. The pilot who made the call made this clear after the “LOOK OUT” part, but for about a second, I was thinking “oh shit” because he didn’t make it clear that he was at a different airport.

My mom and I did get a laugh out of it afterwards, although she was also terrified when it happened.

TL;DR: Skydiver pilot at a different airport makes loud, unexpected announcement starting with “LOOK OUT, LOOK OUT” right after one of my radio calls on the same frequency at an uncontrolled airport, which made my mom and I think we were at risk of a collision with another plane.


10. Close to Death

My scariest thing that happened was when on final, I started to put in a forward slip, except that I forgot to apply nose-down. The nose pitched up to a rather high angle. This was about 700 feet above the ground.

That was the fastest I’d ever seen my instructor move to grab the yoke and push forward. After we went around he very calmly told me that that was the closest I’d ever come to killing us and to never, ever do it again.

I never did.


11. Five Feet Above the Ground

The scariest experience I’ve had while flying would have to be when one of my instructors ordered a go around maybe five feet above the runway for practice. Stupid me took out the flaps first, and then put in power. Let’s just say I’m surprised that the thing didn’t slam into the ground!


12. Balloons in the Sky

I encountered a mylar Mickey Mouse balloon at about 3500 feet once. I spent the next 20 minutes in the T-34 I was flying trying to pop it. Nope, impossible, don’t believe it can be done. The airflow around the aircraft moves the balloon. Now streaming rolls of toilet paper, much easier.


13. Storm Brewing

Couple years back I was flying an instrument approach down to Melbourne, Florida. I forget the name of the approach exactly but we were supposed to circle to 09R. Coming down ATC hits us up about a storm cell that’s making its way to the field and asks if we still want to continue the approach. Anyone familiar with Florida in the summer knows these types of storms aren’t exactly rare. SIC and I figure we can beat it in (we could see it painted on our radar) so we continue. About 600ft above minimums it has become VERY clear that its moving faster than both we and ATC thought. Not 5 secs later ATC hits us up again to tell us just this and mentions the winds have flipped. We ask if we can just circle to 27L instead which he approves. We get in the thick of it and barely broke out of the clouds above minimums before touching down into a wall of rain after battling some of the craziest winds I have flown in to date. Palms were definitely sweaty after that one.


14. Stop-And-Gos

Was training for my private license and had to do what I believe was ten stop-and-gos (this was nearly ten years ago) at Port Columbus. All was well and going nicely until on one of the stops, the wind shifted a little right as I was floating before touchdown. Lifted one of my wings up and I was cruising on one tire and my wingtip had to have been inches away from striking the ground.

Definitely a piss in my pants moment.


15. Not Trying To Die Today

Private pilot going for his CPL, this happened when I was in training for my PPL, I was doing circuits early on in my training with my Instructor who didn’t really have much patience but lots of experience. We were practicing circuits and he decided we would do a touch and go but at the last minute we were told by Tower to go around, stupid me decided pull up without adding power and retracted the flaps up a bit. Needless to say my instructor took control and added power right away and pushed the nose down and very sternly asked me “Are you trying to kill me today?” Never made that mistake again