Author Dean Koontz has a book, titled “Sole Survivor,” where the main character’s wife and two children perished in a plane crash aboard United Flight 353. Keep this Flight number in your mind- while I share my story.
I have never been crazy about flying. I do fine on flights, remembering that I read once that you are safer in an airplane than traveling in a car. I was a bit unsettled though, when Joe changed my flight so that I could travel with him, my son, daughter-in-law, and my two adorable grandchildren, Jack and Kate. I remember thinking that 6 family members on one flight was testing fate.
The first leg of travel from Springfield, MO to Denver went fine. The second flight, United 353, from Denver to Sacramento, was on time and going well. Joe and I were in the row just in front of the kids and grandchildren- in rows 18 & 19. All of a sudden, the smell of burning plastic became very strong in our section of the plane. The customers who could smell it were pretty unsettled and crew were called. They raced around looking for the source. I remember one flight attendant saying that the smell was strongest in the rows near us.
Overhead bins were opened and the search continued. My son mentioned to the crew that his audio was no longer working in his row. Based on this, they turned the movie and audio system off. Finally, the captain came on and told us that the plane was going to land at the closest airport for safety reasons- which was Reno.
I have to give United flight crew bonus points for keeping calm, being professional, and handling the problem as they did. It was very stressful for the passengers who could smell the odor, I will tell you that. Despite the stress, the passengers around us all kept calm and rather quiet.
For me, I happen to be married to an engineer, whose first job out of college was working on DC-10 air conditioning systems. Joe also reads up on plane crashes and what failures- or series of failures lead to plane crashes. I decided to use Joe as a thermometer as to how upset I would be. He was cool, so I would be, too.
I am writing this, so you know the ending. The plane was met at Reno with at least 4 fire trucks, and other rescue crew. They chased us down the runway as we landed, lights flashing. We landed and the rows who could smell the burning smell all cheered. The front of the plane remained rather quiet, probably annoyed by the delay.
Once off the plane, I took these two pictures. The first shows the plane, UA353:
and the second picture shows some fire trucks on the scene. Btw, the plane on the right was the plane which they used to finally get all the passengers to Sacramento:
We finally made it to Sacramento about 2 hours late. We spent the time in Reno keeping Jack away from the slot machines, which lined the terminal aisle. The kids did great flying all day and being very tired.
United staff did a great job handling the issue and even gave each passenger a voucher for $100. Thanks to the Flight Crew, too, as they were very professional throughout.
So that is my UA Flight 353 adventure. My only advice for United is to probably retire the name UA353 name due to fatal event described in the Koontz book. The number has bad joo-joo or karma, I think.
Oh yes, remember my calm husband? Later he told me he was thinking of Swiss Air MD-11 that was brought down by a fire started from an electrical short. All on board perished when the airline flew into the ocean. He decided I was better off not knowing this particular fact at that moment.
Happy Flying!! Carla