Pilots Describe The Scariest Thing That's Ever Happened To Them In Flight

Everyone has had at least one scary plane flight experience, or has at least heard stories about what can happen when your coasting along several thousand feet above the Earth. Travel causes some people a lot of stress and their reactions to that stress can result in a range of emotions or behaviors. Planes are also complex machines that can be brought down by the smallest of human error, like miscalculating weight or even forgetting to tighten a screw.

This is a collection of stories where pilots describe the craziest and scariest things that have ever happened to them while flying a plane. From thinking that they were going to crash to someone committing suicide in the lavatory, a devastating equipment failure, and even paranormal activity, these stories will have you gripping the edge of your seat with white knuckles. So, make sure your feet are firmly planted on the Earth and get reading.


  • Psychic Announced That The Plane Would Crash, Subsequent Turbulence Freaked Passengers Out

    From MysticCurse:

    I was a flight attendant for three years, back in the late 2000s 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 f**king 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 [start] 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.”

  • Girl Committed Suicide In Plane Bathroom, Had To Be Buckled In To Land

    From spitshoot:

    "Friends ex-wife is a flight attendant on a large Canadian carrier. Mid-twenty-year-old girl flying alone on an international flight goes to use the restroom. After a while, the line starts to build up as the passengers can only use one of the two washrooms at the back. After around 10 minutes of no responses, the flight attendant opens the door from the outside (they have a key for this) and walk in to find the girl cut both wrists with a ripped open pop can. She bled out and was dead.

    Before landing they had to buckle her in to one of the free seats. And yes, I asked this many times and it is true. You need to buckle the deceased passengers in case there is excess turbulence or any sudden movements upon landing.”

  • Flight Attendant Instructed Passengers To Stay Seated So They Wouldn't Get Sucked Out Of The Window

    From Nitropig:

    "I'm a flight attendant on small 50-passenger planes (CRJ100/200's). When there was about 40 minutes left in the flight, I [got] a call from the flight deck that they [had] an indicator reading that my passenger door [was] 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 about why the seatbelt sign [had] 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."

  • Stunt Plane Didn't Follow The Rules

    From CaptValentine:

    "I was flying with a student on a nice, clear day. We were doing ground-reference maneuvers (flying fairly close to the ground and snaking over roads, etc.). I was pretty pleased with my student's execution of the maneuver when out of the coroner of my eye I saw movement above the treeline. On second glance it turned out to be a mother f**king stunt plane flying directly into our path. I punched the throttle, pulled the yoke back, and climbed outta there like a homesick angel. I checked the multi-function display (moving map), and there was no indication of another airplane with his transponder on, there were no radio calls to the area. Fine, I thought, he doesn't have to do any of those, despite the fact that they are the smart thing to do. And then this a**hole starts shadowing us really, really closely. I couldn't descend to redo the maneuver for fear of getting too close to this hotdog."

  • Pilots Mistook Radio Frequency, Thought They Were Going To Collide

    From BostonGuy245:

    "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 sh*t' 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 afterward, although she was also terrified when it happened."

  • Almost Annihilated An Entire Family On Christmas Eve

    From vonMishka:

    My dad was a certified commercial pilot, but was not working as such at the time (post-Vietnam had a lot of pilots and he couldn’t find a job).

    When I was six, we flew from Orlando to Miami on Christmas Eve, during the day, to visit my grandparents in a four-seater. My mom was heavily pregnant with my brother.

    I was in the back and had my seatbelt off. (Never again). We hit some sort of air pocket and the next thing I know, my head is on the ceiling and the plane is spiraling toward the ground. It happened so fast! From my perspective, the ground was spiraling up at me. My mom and I were screaming. My dad somehow pulled us out of it about 500 feet or so before we hit the ground.

    My mom’s drink was spilled all over her pretty dress. I remember that well.

    Obviously, this put a damper on my whole plan to look for Santa’s sleigh in the sky. But we had to fly back that night and somehow my mom made me excited to look for him again.

    But yeah, the whole family was nearly wiped out on Christmas Eve.”