Tonight as I was flying into Delhi, the Capital, we were descending close enough to see individual cars and buildings. Then the plane turned sharply upward. What the…. This is Not Normal. And trust me when I say that my whole concept of “normal” has already been reset. This is Not Normal even under my new definition of normal. To be fair the ride back up was smooth and seamless; the pilot seemed to have everything under control. Had I been sleeping I probably would have never noticed. But the ascend was unmistakable based on my body’s internal altimeter and the changing horizon line of Delhi’s skyline.
I said to my seat mate (our first exchange the entire flight), “That is Not Normal.” He struggled. I couldn’t tell if he was unconcerned or didn’t speak English. A look around the plane and the lack of shrieks/prayers made me wonder if anyone else had noticed. I’ve never been that close to the ground and pulled up before. Never.
As one would imagine, we circled back. When we began descent #2, the pilot came on the PA. He said we had been instructed by Control to pull up last time because (spoiler alert) the runway lights had gone out. He went on to say, and I quote, “while this is not normal it does happen from time to time.”
Seriously???? Losing power here IS normal! We all expect power to go out almost daily. My apartment has a back up generator and on top of that all my major appliance have back-up batteries. The back up generator at my office goes on almost daily. Does this pilot think it’s comforting to say that the airport in the Capital doesn’t have some sort of contingency plan for the runway lights in the very normal, entirely predictable situation of a power outage?!? That’s the story he wants to stick with????
Okay people of the internets, that HAS to be pilot-speak for something else, right? Like super secret pilot code for “whoops, forgot the landing gear- redo!”
When I checked in at the hotel, a pilot –sorry, a Captain– from a well known European airline was checking out. I had to ask. He said that in all his years of flying (which, by my guess, were at least 25 years) the runway lights only went out once on approach (and it wasn’t this airport). He said, and I quote, “It is not normal, but it does happen.” Does this day really need THAT as its tag line?!?
The Captain told me that at Delhi, it is much more likely congestion that would require us to circle around. I said I’d have been more comfortable hearing that excuse rather than the runway lights went out. Plus, I am no expert but I think they should have been able to call congestion before we got that close to landing — I mean, I’ve seen Pushing Tin. I am even more convinced that this is pilot code and there is a pilot wall of silence– which they cover up with, “it’s not normal, but…”