erik lundegaard

“And Off to the Right? A Massive Thunderstorm Bearing Down on Us”

Has this ever happened to you? My flight home from Minneapolis Sunday night was supposed to leave at 9:35 but departed 15 minutes early to avoid thunderstorms. All well and good. Full flight, so I assume everyone was on board. But in the air—20,000 feet? 25,000 feet?—we saw the thunderstorms off to the right, which I assume was north, since we were heading west, but may have been west and we were heading south to avoid them. Either way, it was quite the show. We didn't hear much thunder over the drone of the airplane but we saw the flashes of lightning every few seconds and saw the actual bolts of lightning zinging down. Went on for 10 minutes.

That was a long, freakin' 10 minutes.

I was already semi-paranoid about the flight, too. In the Humphrey terminal bar—you know the one: there's only one—I struck up a conversation with a Brit, Matt Chapman, on his way to LA to making a living, or to improve his chances of making a living, as a freelance movie writer. He writes regular features for DVDreview.com.uk. We had a good time talking celebrity interviews (he's done many, me a handful), blasting “Green Lantern,” and talking up DVD commentaries. I asked him for his favorite DVD commentary but his answer has already slipped my mind. Apologies. (Matt, if you read this, please add it below.) Mine is still Craig Wright's commentary from the episodes he wrote for “Six Feet Under.”

As airport bar conversations go, it was pretty decent. In the middle of it, though, something was said, or thought, that led to a pretty strong deja vu moment for me. It was as if I flashed back to a dream I'd had years earlier—a dream that ended with me about to die in an airplane crash. Now, I felt, I'd reached that point in time. I tried to shake the feeling but couldn't but refused to allow it to change my course. Then, at 20,000 feet, the whole thunderstorm lightshow began.

Do you pray on planes? My airplane prayers tend to consist of entreaties to God to look out for various loved ones I'll leave behind. For some reason, it calms me down. Not until now, not until writing this, did I realize the mild threat implicit in these prayers: Really? You're gonna take me? OK, then this is who You have to look out for ... Maybe secretly I'm hoping God thinks, “Oh, man. Seems like a lot of work. OK, I'll let him live ...”

In the end, of course, we passed by the thunderstorm not only safe but with hardly a bump, and life, in all its pettiness, picked up anew.

Air Force One scene from "Superman: The Movie" (1978)

The lightning-bolt-striking-Air-Force-One scene from “Superman: The Movie” that I kept flashing to during those 10 long minutes of our thunderstorm lightshow.


Posted at 07:59 AM on Sat. Jul 16, 2011 in category Personal Pieces  
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COMMENTS

Kristin wrote:

omg erik!! i hope i never find myself next to you on an airplane in a storm...just reading this brought up horrors of my flying days. leaving Philly one night my plane was blasted by lightening...thought a bomb had gone off...it took the pilot a good 15 minutes to get on his mic and let us know what happened, i think he was pretty distraught himself.

you do make me laugh.

Comment posted on Sat. Jul 16, 2011 at 11:41 PM

Erik wrote:

Actually got struck by lightning? Holy crap. Did it affect how the plane flew? Did you have to make an emergency landing?

Comment posted on Sun. Jul 17, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Mister B wrote:

On a bus coming home after the “Thundersnow” Seahawks game in 2006, we sat next to a guy (who had to stand due to lack of space on the bus) who had just landed at Sea-Tac on a British Airways plane that had been struck by lightning. His experience sounded the same as Kristin's.

Something about a plane's design (materials, etc) turns a lightning strike into a minor problem.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43015498/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/video-shows-how-jets-survive-lightning-strikes/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-happens-when-lightni

Comment posted on Mon. Jul 18, 2011 at 03:24 AM

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