Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text:
This trip to Cambodia and Thailand made me take six planes and three airlines (Malaysia Airlines, Bangkok Airways, AirAsia). Usually, I am not too afraid, I am not not too much trouble flying. But then, I had a big scare on the way back, on the Phuket - Kuala Lumpur section...
I had fun recomposing my journey in video (a nice feature ofiMovie (You can plot your route on a globe).
Our project, with the friend who accompanied me: to arrive in Cambodia and leave from Thailand. An "open jaw" flight in the jargon of the airline companies, with different entry and exit points. We opted for Malaysia Airlines, hence the stopover in Kuala Lumpur. That is to say four planes, for the outward journey and the return journey between Asia and France.
Then, to go from Cambodia to Thailand, two additional flights were added:
→ Siem Reap - Bangkok (on Bangkok Airways)
→ Bangkok - Krabi (on AirAsia)
My friend came back to France a week before me. I was lucky enough to be able to extend this little vacation... And I took the opportunity to dive, of course! (I'll come back to tell you about it in the next posts.)
So Friday, after spending ten days in the south of Thailand, I embark on flight MH791 of Malaysia Airlines. Takeoff from Phuket scheduled for 18:10, arriving in Kuala Lumpur about an hour and a half later.
We take off and I get ready with the camera. The flight over the bay of Phang Nga, bristling with islets and rocky peaks, is always spectacular.
I have no particular understanding at the time. I am near a window, behind the wing. The plane is not young anymore, you can see it, the wing has big grey marks and several riveted parts obviously added as reinforcement or repair. But nothing suspicious.
And then, as I start to photograph the bay, a little disappointed that it is already too dark, the plane tilts to the side to start a turn. The feeling is always a bit strange, but the maneuver is classic after a takeoff, when the plane has to change direction to follow its flight plan.
That leans, then. Normal.
I have a twinge in my right ear. I have a small ear infection, usual diver's soreness. I have been bubbling non-stop in the Andaman Sea these last few days. With the altitude and the pressurization of the cabin, the pain wakes up. It's normal.
Except that ... except that ...
The plane is tilting too much, way too much, right now. It's not normal. Normally, they don't do acrobatics, the pilots of commercial airlines, right? There is the comfort of the passengers, the safety, all that...
It's going full throttle, the acceleration is brutal. I find myself plastered to the back of the seat. Oh, no! This is not normal at all!
I take a look at my neighbor on the right. She makes a funny face. She also feels that something is not right.
This atrocious turn lasted a few seconds, no more. The heart misses a beat, the stomach flips, the fear nestles deep in the gut.
And then the plane recovered, stabilized.
We are no longer stuck in our seats. One dares again to breathe. My neighbor sketches a pale smile, the hands tightened on the armrest.
The speaker sputters. "This is your captain speaking... We have a technical problem, so we are now flying back to Phuket, to solve this problem. Please keep your seatbelt fasten. I repeat : we are going back to Phuket. Be ready for landing."
Nervous laughter rises in the rows in front of me. My neighbor is pale.
Technical problem? He wants to bring the plane back to Phuket? And he will still be able to land? Besides, what is the problem? Is it serious, or not? For him to decide to come back, it must not be a small problem. Rather a big problem, even.
There, the funk starts to grow serious.
The following minutes are long, very long. We lose altitude, not too much turbulence, the plane descends towards the sea, gets back on the runway axis, it vibrates a little. Complete silence in the plane.
And everything is going well. We land normally.
Of course, everyone gets loose and claps wildly once we're down. Not me. Nor my neighbor. This isn't a show, is it?
After that, we stayed in the plane for an hour, while they fixed the problem... Mechanics and guys with walkie-talkies came and went between the back door and the cockpit. I don't know what the technical problem was. We didn't get a clear explanation.
Then, the captain simply told us that the problem was solved, that we were leaving. We took off again in the same plane. My neighbor and I were not laughing at all. We would have preferred to change planes.
Uneventful flight. But I was more than tense, all along. Big relief, when we finally landed in Kuala Lumpur...
Fear has its reasons that reason does not know
I wasn't (too) scared on the next plane from Kuala Lumpur to Paris. I stayed on my toes during the whole take-off phase. I pretended to sleep during the turbulences. And a bit sleepy when it became calm again. I didn't even have a movie to watch to think about something else during the more than 13 hours of flight: their entertainment system was out of order... (Bah! As long as the engines and everything else works, we won't complain!)
I know. It's not rational to be afraid of flying. On the Indonesian company Lion Air, they understood it well: there is a prayer booklet adapted, for all faiths.
Come on, there's nothing to freak out about: 2010 would have been the safest year in the history of aviation, according to theiatathe International Air Transport Association. North America has a ratio of 0.10 accidents per million flights, Europe 0.45, North Asia 0.34, Asia Pacific 0.80, South America 1.87 and Africa 7.41.
Otherwise, there are a lot of nice sites to cure (or not) your fear of flying: ► Crash-Aerien.aero
(Last site above added on the advice of the other girl, the one who took the same flight, without incident, a week before me. I quote her: "The best site about airlines. Plus, they don't talk about crashes." 🙄 )
Strangely enough, the more I fly, the less reassured I am. It's the body talking, the survival instinct, I don't know... There's something unnatural about flying, actually.
I leave you with Anne Roumanoff, who explains it very well!