I am a tester, and I’m out of my mind.
I’m sitting in an airplane right now with 74 other passengers. We’re all wearing green jumper suits with parachutes strapped on. It’s been 7 hours, and we are almost at our destination. We’re on the first bio-fuel airplane flight from New York, New York to Anchorage, Alaska. What was I thinking?
‘We’ll pay for your flight, and you’ll receive compensation packages.”
It was settled, I thought. We all look like astronauts on a test flight in space. It took us so long to come this far. Five years ago we flew a passenger jet from Texas to California unmanned successfully. Five years later, after rigorous research, they decided to test a flight with passengers in it. None of us know how to parachute. What are we going to do?
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Red lights are flashing, the airmasks come down. No word from the pilots. No word about our status. We all begin to look at each other.
“What the hell do we do now?”
“Wasn’t there some kind of backup plan?
“Jesus Christ, are we going down?”
The plane begins to rattle and shake, and we are all still strapped in. A couple passengers unbuckle their belts to try and approach the cockpit, but only get knocked down by the turbulence, and fall head over heels towards their intended destination. The two random passengers crash hard on the floor right before the door, moaning and yelling from the pain. One of them must have broken something, he was crying. A grown man, crying.
The other finds his balance and enters the cockpit.
“Hey guys, what are we supposed to – “
The cockpit is empty.
“Holy shit! There’s nobody flying this plane!” A panic begins to overwhelm the passengers, and screaming and yelling almost omit the intercom announcement that soon follows.
“Everyone SHUT UP, there’s something going on!” A hushed quiet proves the point, as the intercom makes an automated announcement.
“Attention passengers. This unmanned flight from New York to Alaska has experienced technical malfunctions, and the ability to automate the flight is no longer a viable option. Please listen carefully for alternative safety precautions…”
The announcement instructs us to move to the back of the airplane and prepare to parachute out of the pressure-safe exit. Our other option is to manually fly the plane. Nobody here knows how to fly the plane. Nobody knows how to parachute either. Our choice is made though. We struggle to move out of our seats amidst the turbulence and make our way to the back of the plane. A couple people are getting trampled in the struggle.
“The aircraft will maintain a level flight altitude until the pressurized door is released” The intercom announced. “Please follow the onboard instructions for safe exiting procedures.”
“Holy shit, we’re gonna’ die!”
“Shut the hell up,” I said back to them. We all see the large instructions plastered to the wall next to the door we head for, and quickly read over what to do.
1. Ensure straps on parachute are connected and tightened fully.
2. Do not open door until everyone is ready to exit the aircraft.
3. When the door is opened, a blinking locator will drop from the aircraft. Navigate yourselves towards this beacon.
4. Allow the centrifugal force to pull you out, and tuck into a ball as quickly as possible.
5. When free of the aircraft, extend your body naturally to hang in the air.
6. Count to 30, and release parachute.
7. Hold onto the straps that descend from the pack to navigate your direction.
8. To land, approach open landscape as in a run, and place your legs in front of you.
9. Hop on first contact and maintain balance until safely on the ground.
10. Release parachute from back and head towards the beacon, which will continue to emit a bright light for 24 hours. A emergency response crew will be there within 3 hours.
“No fucking way” I thought.
Somebody in front of me begins to unlatch the door.
“No! Wait we’re not all ready yet!” Too late.
The door begins to hiss and flies off the cabin into the sky. A strong gust begins to whip at our shoulders and pulls me out the aircraft. A volley of screams and “oh fucks” overlap the loud depressurization of my eardrums, and I look back to examine the situation. There are still some people in their seats.
“Here goes nothing,” I say, and ball up right before the weightless feeling of flight takes over.
Amazing… The sound of the airplane disappears. The screams and yells from the other passengers no longer exist to me. My eyes are closed and tears begin to form. Before 30 seconds is up I open up the parachute and look back at the airplane, a spec in the sky now with lights and fragments coming out of it. I see other passengers flying loosely out sporadically. What a terrifying sight. The plane is heading towards a hillside with trees and rocks. I hope people get out in time before it hits that obstruction.
I still see people falling out of the plane vaguely as it collides with the hillside. A flurry of fireballs and debris explode from the spectacle, and some people I see bounce off the earth like fleas on skin. It was horrible. I can’t look anymore.
I turn around right before the sound of the crash hits me, a large BOOM and CRASH, a wave of warmth and wind tells me it’s down. I look for the beacon, which is floating downward towards an open prairie. I aim myself towards the beacon. This is getting easier. I see my way down, and land with limited issues. The parachute gets wrapped around me as I roll on the ground. It’s not until I’m down that I notice how cold it is outside. We must be north of Oregon. It’s dark outside. I see snow in the trees north of me. The beacon is in my sights. I take off the parachute and wrap myself up in it to stay warm, and sit next to the beacon, bright now, too much to look at. I lay down now, watching the stars above, and see numerous others completing their descent. There are only so many out there, I imagine some did not make it back so easily.
I think the makers of the aircraft have some kinks to work out.