I was a passenger on the Saturday flight from Las Vegas to Burbank. I want to tell you what happened from a passenger's point of view.
The flight was smooth and uneventful; the captain made an announcement that we were on schedule and a comment about the pleasant weather awaiting us in Burbank. A few minutes later, as I was looking out the window (I was overlooking a wing) the plane tilted sharply to the right at an angle, dropped altitude dramatically, and passengers began screaming. Things were falling, passengers were clutching their seats and holding hands. You could literally hear the engine stall out then roar back up again. The pilot regained control, righted the aircraft and began climbing. We were so terrified that I believe everyone on board felt that was the end for us. A moment or two later, we seemed to lose control again, although not as severely, rocking and swerving, before he regained control again. We had no idea what was happening, all of us were so traumatized. We waited for an announcement but none came.
We were all so thankful to land safely, and a flight attendant announced for all passengers to deplane through the front door due to the mess in the back. We were not told anything else, no explanation for what occurred, nor even where to claim our luggage.
Passengers from the back passed the word forward to inform the pilot to open the rear door because two attendants were hurt badly. An announcement was then made from the attendant in front to clear the aisles for the pilot to go to the back of the plane to attend to two injured flight attendants.
After he passed by us, we were then able to deplane, still in shock and traumatized. Nobody from the airline was there to greet us as we deplaned to ask if we were okay, if we were hurt. Somebody representing the airline should have been there to check on our welfare. We deplaned and there were numerous firetrucks and emergency vehicles lined up next to the aircraft. As we left the front stairs, I saw emergency personnel running up the back staircase.
We all wandered into the terminal, still in shock with no idea what had happened, just so grateful to have landed safely. Eventually we located the carousel with our luggage and still had to drive home, shaken and confused, wondering what happened and feeling there was no way we could possibly fly again.
I have checked the newspapers and the Southwest Airlines website trying to find answers. People I have told just shrug it off as turbulence, but it was much worse than that...everyone on that flight knew that. The pilot had a scared look on his face after landing when he passed by me in the aisle going to assist the injured flight attendants.
Now after all these days I get answers on the news. I feel validated that it is acknowledged that something happened, not just normal turbulence. But it is disturbing to learn that, according to the FAA, the pilot was traveling on a collision course.
However, more fears remain. I had planned a much anticipated trip to take my fiance to Hawaii to show him the beautiful place I grew up in, but now I don't feel I can ever get on a plane again. It was a truly traumatizing experience.