Friday, September 12, 2014

Pull up! PULL UP!

This is from a truly awful web site called, in which you can read transcripts and even listen to cockpit transmissions that take place during actual plane crashes. Yes, I know it's sick, but it's the kind of thing I've been known to become obsessed with. And compared to my suicide short story, it's downright upbeat.

But be honest for a minute. Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like? This brings you uncomfortably close. Though it's only audio, it's more raw than any so-called "reality" TV I've ever seen. I am haunted by the voice of the radio traffic reporter screaming "hit the water, hit the water!" as her chopper goes down, and the nervous, awkward chatter of the radio hosts as they try to quell their fear that she has been killed. (She has).  Now I know that the doomy repetitive sounds of those warning instruments ("WHOOP, WHOOP, PULL! UP! - WHOOP, WHOOP, PULL! UP!") may be the last thing you ever hear.

Some of the pilots' last words are memorable:

I have nothing in front of me.
What's happening?
Goodnight. Goodbye. We perish!
That's it, I'm dead.
No need for that, we are okay, no problem, no problem
It's OK, it's OK, don't hurry, don't hurry
OK, mellow it out, mellow it out
Oh, God. . . flip!
A bit low, bit low, bit low
Hang on. What the hell is this?
Watch it!
We're finished.
Pete, sorry.
Actually, these conditions don't look very good at all, do they?
Amy, I love you.

(I include below an entire transcript from a doomed flight from 1972. The inepititude of these guys floors me: these are the kinds of pilots you DON'T want to have. Laurel and Hardy could have flown this plane better, I think. While the plane heads for doom, they're trying to fix a light with a pair of pliers and a kleenex. Unlike many of these catastrophic cases, there were survivors.)

December 29, 1972
Everglades National Park, Florida
Eastern Air Lines, Flight 401
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar1

The crew was preoccupied with a landing gear problem and was trying to replace the landing
gear light while on autopilot and in a holding pattern. As the captain got up to help, he 
inadvertently pushed on the yoke releasing the autopilot. With no ground reference and 
under nighttime conditions, the aircraft gradually descended until it crashed into Everglades, 
18.7 miles west-northwest of Miami killing 100 out of 176 aboard. The failure of the crew to 
monitor the flight instruments during the final 4 minutes of flight, and to detect a descent 
soon enough to prevent impact with the ground.

TWR = Tower
APP = Approach
CAM = Cockpit area mike
CAM 1 = Primarily Captain
CAM 2 = Primarily First Officer
Cam 3 = Primarily Flight Engineer
?? = unknown.
### = expletive
RT = Radio transmission


RT   Miami Tower, do you read, Eastern 401? Just turned on final.


TWR   Eastern 401 Heavy, continue approach to 9 left.


RT  Continue approach, roger.


CAM 3   Continuous ignition. No smoke.

CAM 1   Coming on.

CAM 3   Brake system.

CAM 1   Okay.

CAM 3   Radar.

CAM 1   Up, off.

CAM 3   Hydraulic panels checked.

CAM 2  Thirty-five, thirty three.

CAM 1  Bert, is that handle in?

CAM ???

CAM 3  Engine crossbleeds are open.


CAM  ?  Gear down.

CAM  ?  ??

CAM 1  I gotta.

CAM  ?  ??


CAM 1  I gotta raise it back up.


CAM 1  Now I'm gonna try it down one more time.

CAM 2  All right.


[sound of altitude alert horn]

CAM 2  Right gear.

CAM 2  Well, want to tell 'em we'll take it around and circle around and ... around?


RDO 1  Well ah, tower, this is Eastern, ah, 401. It looks like we're gonna have to circle, we don't have a light on our nose gear yet.


TWR   Eastern 401 heavy, roger, pull up, climb straight ahead to two thousand, go back to approach control, one twenty eight six.


CAM 2  Twenty-two degrees.

CAM 2  Twenty-two degrees, gear up

CAM 1  Put power on it first, Bert. That-a-boy.

CAM 1  Leave the ... gear down till we find out what we got.

CAM 2  All right.

CAM 3  You want me to test the lights or not?

CAM 1  Yeah.

CAM ?   ... seat back.

CAM 1  Check it.

CAM 2  Uh, Bob, it might be the light. Could you jiggle that, the light?

CAM 3  It's gotta, gotta come out a little bit and then snap in.

CAM  ?  ??

CAM  ?  I'll put 'em on.


RT  Okay, going up to two thousand, one twenty-eight six.


CAM 2  We're up to two thousand

CAM 2  You want me to fly it, Bob?

CAM 1  What frequency did he want us on, Bert?

CAM 2  One twenty-eight six.

CAM 1  I'll talk to 'em.

CAM 3  It's right ...

CAM 1  Yeah, ...

CAM 3  I can't make it pull out, either.

CAM 1  We got pressure.

CAM 3  Yes sir, all systems.

CAM 1  ??


RDO 1  All right ahh, Approach Control, Eastern 401, we're right over the airport here and climbing to two thousand feet. in fact, we've just


APP  Eastern 401, roger. Turn left heading three six zero and maintain two thousand, vectors to 9 Left final.


RT  Left three six zero.


CAM 1  Put the ... on autopilot here.

CAM 2  All right.

CAM 1  See if you can get that light out.

CAM 2  All right.

CAM 1  Now push the switches just a ... forward.

CAM 1  Okay.

CAM 1  You got it sideways, then.

CAM ?  Naw, I don't think it'll fit.

CAM 1  You gotta turn it one quarter turn to the left.


APP  Eastern 401, turn left heading three zero zero.

RT  Okay.


RT  Three zero zero, Eastern 401.


CAM 1  Hey, hey, get down there and see if that damn nose wheel's down. You better do that.

CAM 2  You got a handkerchief or something so I can get a little better grip on this? Anything I can do with it?

CAM 1  Get down there and see if that, see if that ### thing ...

CAM 2  This won't come out, Bob. If I had a pair of pliers, I could cushion it with that Kleenex.

CAM 3  I can give you pliers but if you force it, you'll break it, just believe me.

CAM 2  Yeah, I'll cushion it with Kleenex.

CAM 3  Oh, we can give you pliers.


APP  Eastern, uh, 401 turn left heading two seven zero.


RT  Left two seven zero, roger.


CAM 1  To hell with it, to hell with this. Go down and see if it's lined up with the red line. That's all we care. ### around with that ### twenty-cent piece ...

CAM ?  ??


RT  Eastern 401 I'll go ah, out west just a little further if we can here and, ah, see if we can get this light to come on here.


APP  All right, ah, we got you headed westbound there now, Eastern 401.


RT  All right.

CAM 1  How much fuel we got left on this ###

CAM ?  Fifty two five.

CAM 2  It won't come out, no way.


CAM 1  Did you ever take it out of there?

CAM 2  Huh?

CAM 1  Have you ever taken it out of there?

CAM 2  Hadn't till now.

CAM 1  Put it in the wrong way, huh?

CAM 2  In there looks ... square to me.

CAM ?  Can't you get the hole lined up?

CAM ?  ??

CAM ?  Whatever's wrong?

CAM 1  What's that?


CAM 2  I think that's over the training field.

CAM ?  West heading you wanna go left or ...

CAM 2  Naw that's right, we're about to cross Krome Avenue right now.


CAM  [Sound of click]

CAM 2  I don't know what the ### holding that ### ...

CAM 2  Always something, we could'a made schedule.


CAM  [Sound of altitude alert]

CAM 1  We can tell if that ### is down by looking down at our indices.

CAM 1  I'm sure it's down, there's no way it couldn't help but be.

CAM 2  I'm sure it is.

CAM 1  It freefalls down.

CAM 2  The tests didn't show that the lights worked anyway.

CAM 1  That 's right.

CAM 2  It's a faulty light.


CAM 2  Bob, this ### just won't come out.

CAM 1  All right leave it there.

CAM 3  I don't see it down there.

CAM 1  Huh?

CAM 3  I don't see it.

CAM 1  You can't see that indis ... for the nose wheel ah, there's a place in there you can look and see if they're lined up.

CAM 3  I know, a little like a telescope.

CAM 1  Yeah.

CAM 3  Well ...

CAM 1  It's not lined up?

CAM 3  I can't see it, it's pitch dark and I throw the little light I get ah nothing.


CAM 4  Wheel-well lights on?

CAM 3  Pardon?

CAM 4  Wheel-well lights on?

CAM 3  Yeah wheel well lights always on if the gear's down.

CAM 1  Now try it.


APP  Eastern, ah 401 how are things coming along out there?


RT  Okay, we'd like to turn around and come, come back in.

CAM 1  Clear on left?

CAM 2  Okay


APP  Eastern 401 turn left heading one eight zero.


CAM 1  Huh?


RT  One eighty.


CAM 2  We did something to the altitude.

CAM 1  What?


CAM 2  We're still at two thousand right?


CAM 1  Hey, what's happening here?


[Sound of click]



[Sound of six beeps similar to radio altimeter increasing in rate]


[Sound of impact]

The Kicker. There's always a kicker, right? I never plan it that way. I just find I have more to say on the subject. Included on this eerie page is a transcript (no audio, thank God) from the doomed flight that was meant to crash into the White House on Sept. 11, 2001. This is just a fragment of it. (Bracketed lines have been translated from Arabic.)

9:39:11Ah. Here's the captain. I would like to tell you all to 
remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are 
going back to the airport, and we have our demands. 
So, please remain quiet.
9:39:21OK. That's 93 calling?
9:39:24(One moment.)
9:39:34United 93. I understand you have a bomb on board.
Go ahead.
9:39:42And center exec jet nine fifty-six. That was the 
9:39:47OK. Ah. Who called Cleveland?
9:39:52Executive jet nine fifty-six, did you understand that
9:39:56Affirmative. He said that there was a bomb on board.
9:39:58That was all you got out of it also?
9:40:03United 93. Go ahead.
9:40:14United 93. Go ahead.
9:40:52(This green knob?)
9:40:54(Yes, that's the one.)
9:41:05United 93, do you hear the Cleveland center?
9:41:14(One moment. One moment.)
9:41:56Oh man.
9:44:18(This does not work now.)
9:45:13Turn it off.
9:45:16(... Seven thousand ...)
9:45:19(How about we let them in? We let the guys in 
9:45:24(Should we let the guys in?)
9:45:25(Inform them, and tell him to talk to the pilot.
Bring the pilot back.)
9:45:57(In the name of Allah. In the name of Allah.
I bear witness that there is no other God, but Allah.)
9:47:40(Allah knows.)
9:48:38Set course.
9:52:31   Unintelligible.

Grief Relief (short fiction)

Everybody said the same thing. Oh, they said it all right, but only officially, and only because it was a fad. A fad, in that, like the ice bucket challenge, everyone was doing it, and almost no one was thinking of the true significance of it.

And it was a lie.

What did it mean to "reach out for help"? If things spilled over and it was just too hard and the loneliness too agonizing, what were her choices? Her friends were uncomfortable with her grief and always tried to cheer her up. They talked brightly and continuously, trampling her attempts to communicate. Sometimes they brought things over, cookies, a hand-crocheted tea cozy. They steadfastly didn't talk about her depression, and made it know somehow that she wasn't supposed to, either. Then they said to themselves, "There. I have tried to help Sarah, but she doesn't want my help."

OK then: so how else does one "reach out for help"? How about a minister? The Word of God would solve everything. No, SHOULD. Not only that, she must obviously be faithless to be in this state. Cheer up, for the Lord helps you all the day long, even if you are too ungrateful to recognize it.

"Sarah. Soooooooo. I see you are having some feelings of slight depression."

Slight, my ass. But what am I supposed to tell him: that I want to cut my wrists most of the time?

"Well, I'm having a little bit of trouble sleeping."

"So how much sleep are you getting, Sarah?"

How much sleep are you getting? How much sleep are you getting?

"Four hours, maybe five."

"Well, dear, as we get older, we require less sleep. This may just be an adjustment. But I'll give you more Seroquel just in case."

"I've gained thirty pounds on the Seroquel."

"Well, dear, we'll just have to exercise more self-control, won't we ?"

Self-control to forfeit her one form of self-comfort? An adjustment to the weird jangles and patterns in the air and on the walls which she knew represented months of severe sleep deprivation? But no. Don't tell him about that. It would be antipsychotics for sure, the big guns, and then it would truly be over.

CUT! CUT! Don't print any of this, throw the footage away because it is useless. There is NO ONE to talk to about ANY of this: "resources" do not exist because everyone is uncomfortable with the erosion of her personality. It's too macabre, so it isn't happening. There, now, we're finished.

When Dan died, she felt as if she were falling endlessly, the air whistling in her ears, sure she would never hit bottom, but then when she did, she began to fall again. Everyone told her to go on a cruise. She remembered widows who had done that, who seemed suddenly liberated and twenty years younger, joyful for the first time in decades. Dancing, kicking up their heels, getting new boy friends that their families didn't approve of.  It didn't happen to her. A year and a half went by, her friend Doris died suddenly of a heart attack,  then her grandchild Nathan committed suicide. The act was a searing thunderclap, followed by white noise that blotted out every colour there was.

Can all this happen to one person? Oh, no, I guess it can't then.

But it did.

There was lots of hand-patting, a ton of advice and homilies ("a person is only as happy as they make up their mind to be", "the only thing we can control is our attitude", "it's always darkest before the dawn", etc.), but also some savage things leaping out at her from nowhere (or somewhere?), including her daughter snarling at her, "This is all your fault. You had a bad influence on him, all that mental illness crap. I never should have let you near him."

You walk along. You get through the day. Friendships wither because it is harder, and harder, and harder to keep a smile on your face, harder and harder to "act normal", cover the abyss. Then one day you walk into the living room just as a news announcement flashes on the screen, some sort of message: "The Williams family requests privacy at this time." Then it quickly moves on to the next item.

The Williams family. 

As you head upstairs to the computer, hoping to find out more, a thought hits you, a jolt coming straight down on you like lightning out of the sky. 

It's Robin Williams. And he has killed himself.

For a while the news bubbles and burbles. Some people say it was his fault, others say he was being selfish. A psychologist writes him an "open letter" long after he is dead, telling him why suicide is such a bad idea and why he shouldn't consider it. Helpful. He should have reached out for help, of course. All you poor, distraught fuckups out there, make sure you reach out for help! But if you were so in touch with things that might help you, if you were a real person, a normal person, not a percentage point dwelling in the sludge at the bottom of the human barrel, reaching out wouldn't be needed to begin with.

All right then. I know this is a bad idea, probably an unpopular idea, but he set an example, didn't he? The brightest, most effervescent personality who ever lived, hanging himself with a belt. Myself, I always thought it was a good idea to use two ideas concurrently: take the pills, THEN hang yourself. Cut your wrists, THEN jump off the bridge. That way, you won't have the sagging-through-the-floor humiliation of waking up from a failed suicide attempt, the entire family furious with you for being so selfish.  But what about throwing yourself in front of a train? I've run out of prequels there.

Oh all right, this method will do. I know enough to follow the correct procedure because I have read up on it. There's just tons of stuff on the internet now; you don't even need to go to the library and get that odd look when you check out all those books. I know the drill by now, mainly by doing it wrong. Don't just take the pills, because you'll throw them up for sure. Have a sandwich first, a sort of symbolic Last Supper, the final meal before the convict is executed, with a nice hit of alcohol. (I've been sober twenty years, but what does it matter now? My family told me I never should have been an alcoholic to begin with.) Then a few Tums and two Gravol to avoid puking them up. Let it settle, then start to take the Seroquel, but NOT all at once. My God, someone must have supervised this to get it exactly right! But they call it mercy killing, or they used to. Assisted suicide? There's no one left who will assist me.

A life is done, then it's undone. It's completed, meaning that it is finished. (Didn't Jesus say that on the cross? Such a wag.) People can run around and scream all they like, blame me, say everything is my fault, which they will. But they won't have Sarah to kick around any more. Oh, no they won't.

She lies down on the bed, and in a last bitter joke that no one will understand, spreads her arms out in a crucifixion pose. Blessed assurance: the wave passes over her, enveloping and dark, bringing her at last the peace that passeth all understanding.