“Attention, this is your pilot speaking, what I’m about to say to you is very important and I want you to listen very carefully,” these are not the words any passenger wants to hear just after take off!
This was the dramatic announcement that 16 year old islander Kathryn Macleod recently experienced when travelling back to the UK from a outreach trip by The Gambia Partnership to West Africa.
And what followed is likely to stay with her for a very long time, Kathryn, said: “Our plane had been booked to fly back to London as normal routine.
“During take-off, our plane (with its 170 passengers) began to make a loud constant banging noise like a drill which travelled through the whole aircraft. It immediately alerted us and the feeling that something had gone wrong was in everyone’s minds.
“There was an eerie atmosphere amongst the passengers, little talk and cabin crew remained in their seats. Worries were starting to arise as the plane carried on flying but was not rising higher.”
When the announcement from the pilot came through Kathryn said her stomach stopped and she began to fear the worst.
“Thankfully our skilled pilot explained to us that during the take-off, the plane flew into 50 storks, with 13 getting pulled into the engines,” she described: “One engine had completely stopped working and the other one was damaged but kept the plane flying.
“The pilot made the decision to turn back around to the Gambian airport. After an agonising 45 minutes, we managed to land back on safe ground with a huge sigh of relief.”
Simply grateful to be on the ground again, at first Kathryn did not realise just how much trouble they had been in, but talking to the pilot afterwards brought the danger into sharp focus.
With strange echoes to the recent Holywood movie ‘Sully’, where a flight out of New York was forced to land on the Hudson river following multiple bird strikes, Kathryn described how the pilot of her plane said it was the worst experience he had ever had, he chillingly added: “It was a miracle we didn’t have to land in the sea.”
Now back home safely on Lewis the teenager commented: “Seeing the Isle of Lewis through the plane window flying back from Inverness was that little bit sweeter.
“I won’t reflect on my fantastic trip using that chilling event but it will stay in all our memories.”