Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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02/23/2006: "Going Down!"

OK, some of you may know that like many others, I am afraid to fly. Don't get me wrong, I fly all the time but every time I do I experience a lot of anxiety, bad dreams, etc. It probably wasn't a great idea to watch the pilot for "Lost" last night (the one with the gruesome crash) but i did. I have often wondered how I would react in a plane crash situation. Would I be a screamer? A weeper? would I call out "Save me Jebus" or would I be stoic. Well, now I know...sorta. (mostly stoic with delayed weeping).

We had just reached cruising altitude of 12 thousand feet and the attendants were starting their beverage and snack service. I was coming back from the restroom and was stuck behind the snack cart on its way to the forward of the plane. I noticed the bags of chips looked like hillium balloons but didn't think much about it until there was a loud pop and they all went flying into the air, landing spread out over about three rows. I had never seen anything like it. We all laughed nervously. I sat back down and noticed one of the first class attendants trying to calm down a couple passangers. I was sitting directly behind the bulkhead and the curtains were open.

A woman in first class looked back at me with a panicked look on her face. I mouthed "problems?" and she gravely nodded yes. The plane began to decend. I looked behind me and saw the airline attendants quickly stowing the food and beverage carts. There was a flurry of activity near the cockpit. No one was saying anything. There had been a couple of announcements to stay seated and keep our seatbelts on but then nothing. Then the attendants voice came back on saying in a scared voice "some of your are still moving around, I can not stress enough how you must stay seated with your seatbelt on. The pilot will make an announcement as soon as he knows something".

The plane was silent. I couldn't even be sure i heard our engines. Were they out? I started to feel this horrible sinking in my stomach. I was sitting near my boss, she as looking out the window watching the mountains get bigger and bigger as the plane continued to go down. She looked over at me and I could tell she (who was normally the most stoic person I know) was scared.

No one knew what was happening. i can tell you though that where we were flying, there was no where to land. Just mountains. It was a beautiful clear day and you could see them perfectly...and we were getting closer and closer to them. I said "well, if it's our time to go I guess that's that" and my boss said "I have to much work to do". and then we sat there. I felt certain the plane was going to crash, and very soon. Our ears were killing us, sharp shooting pains from the fast decent. It was the most creepy thing I think I've ever experience.

I've been on horrible flights, through electrical storms with terrible turbulance and wind so bad they made us move seats around the cabin mid flight to balance the plane, and none of them freaked me out as those terrible quiet minutes we spent slowly losing altitude.

5000 feet later the captain came back on to say that they were experiencing a problem and that the cabin had lost pressurisation. That's why he had to make an "emergency decent". It was hard to hear his announcement cuz our ears by this time are all messed up...I heard something about landing in Cordova, but that they wanted to try and continue on to Anchorage where there were better medical facilities. My first thought was "CRASH LANDING" but it turns out they wanted emt's there to check passangers with severe ear pains. The plane was met with fire engines and ems people who came on board and helped escort a few passangers off the flight. We were told that Alaska Airlines wanted to contact each of us in writing and gave us all cards to fill out.

On the bottom it said "sorry for the inconvenience"!!!!

Replies: 18 Comments

on Thursday, February 23rd, marja-leena said

Wow! You had my skin crawling as I read this, even though I knew you got out alive to write this. Wow! I think I'd develop a fear of flying after this kind of experience!

on Thursday, February 23rd, Judy Vars said

Hey Elise,
I've been dropping is for about 2 months now. I had a new years resolution that I was going to start a blog. Just incase anyone found me interesting enough to read it, but instead I vicarously read and enjoy your blog. You are very brave. I love your art its so alive and vibrant. Right not I'm wataching the art auction on PBS, watching the Olympic skating Go Sasha! and poking ,aroung on your site. You give some good inspiration and funny everyday stuff. I feel like I know you. Some of your feelings about being an artist sound like my feelings..Anyway I hope you get home of Alaska Air safe and sound and no oxygen masks pop down. :O

on Thursday, February 23rd, subi said

my god!!! i thought this was fiction! how scary! was this the return trip to HA? When did this all happen? I am so glad you are okay! :O

on Friday, February 24th, dave from Nebraska said

Geeze Elise!!!!
Recent nomadic place on the web.

on Friday, February 24th, Elise said own skin was crawling as well! Afterwards my boss jokingly asked if anyone wanted to rent a car for the trip home to Juneau but that's not going to happen, it would take 3 days driving and then a very very long ferry ride to get there.
Hi Judy! Thanks for saying hi! I know there are a few of you out there who stop by every once and awhile but never comment...which is fine, but it's always nice to "meet" someone new. Your website is pretty cool, love your bio photo! You definately need to start a blog. go to, it's free and the process is super simple!

Oh, and Subi, this was coming from Juneau to Anchorage for a conference, in fact, i have to get going pretty soon or I'll get to my first session late...the only positive thing is that the chances of being in a plane crash are so remote that it would be statistically improbable for anything like this to happen to me again. right???

And DAVE! Where ya been guy??? I hope you are feeling all restored from your accident. I'm still wanting for those spicy chocolate chip cookies!

on Friday, February 24th, greg said

Whoa! Your description of the chips bags is freaky!! ... I mean just to begin with!

Glad you made it safely. It made the news in Seattle, how "another" Alaska Air jet had depressurisation. They are my "mileage" airline, and hope by the time I fly outta here in the summer it will all be fixed!

Hope your teaching goes well, and get home safe-fly! :)

on Friday, February 24th, ann said

So glad you are okay. That's a crazy story.

I don't think I'd be saying "I have too much work to do" as your boss did. In fact, I'm positive I wouldn't be!

on Friday, February 24th, Rod said

Wow! I think some people are destined to have interesting lives and you are one of them. I don't envy you getting back on a plane flying into Juneau so soon after such an experience.
Perhaps some xanax or a few beers before you board the plane. ;)

on Friday, February 24th, Elise said

It makes sense, what happened with the chips, as the air expanded they puffed up like balloons. I've spoken with a few people this morning who were on the same flight. A couple others ended up thowing up like I did (did I forget to mention that!) me in the first class bathroom (heh heh)...

It made the news here as well, though I feel they underplayed the story a bit, said the flights had "pressure issues" WHATEVER!

And ann, I agree, I was not thinking about work.
It did cross my mind how rediculous it was that I had wasted so much energy worrying about my presentation.

And Rod, why *does* it seem that so many strange things continually happen to, or around, me? You say "interesting" I say "no thanks!"!

on Friday, February 24th, Rob Roys said

You are so lucky.

Most people do not know that the odds are if you have an accident flying it will most likely be benign. Do you know the odds of being in two airplane "accidents?" What are the odds of being in two with the second being deadly? You are a Golden God of flight now. Wow. You are so lucky.
And now you know who you are more than you did. You touched the void in a very real way. You had a practice run. Very cool. Meat for a painting.
Whenever I fly I always remind myself that the pilots do not want to die either. But you are a Golden God! I will fly with you anytime!
Welcome home!

on Friday, February 24th, Elise said

gee Rob, I hope that you making the "Golden God" reference doesn't jinx me now!
Just kidding.

It was so a sureal experience...if the pilot had just said that he was making an emergency decent for "pressure issues" it wouldn't have been nearly as scary.


I am somewhat sadistic with my fear of, I've read transcripts from pilots who crashed, their last words recorded on the black fav. last word was 'shit'.

I've also read books like Airframe, and the day before Rick and I flew home from Madrid we went and saw the original "Final Destination"...or how I watched the pilot of Lost the day before my flight here!

Anyway, I'm hoping the statistics thing is true as I have to get on another Alaska Air flight in two days...don't say "welcome home" just yet...I'm still in Anchorage!

on Friday, February 24th, Kasia said

That is why I hate flying, too! In the car there are always some chances, but on the plane? Knowing that in 3, 4 minutes everything ends?
The story is written very well - maybe you should write thrillers?

on Saturday, February 25th, Rod said

Well, satistics say that you're safer in an airplane than a car simply beause the FAA has so many regulations that if automobile drivers had to fullfil the same requirements there would be 1/5 the number of drivers in the USA. Mostly due to the extensive costs involved in airplane upkeep/maintenance and inspections.
The average person in the U.S. rides in an ambulance twice in their lives. So if you cover that in a week, does that mean your doomed?
I don't believe instances are related, and getting on one plane has nothing to do with your experience on another. But I'd probably have a few beers anyway. :P

on Saturday, February 25th, RR said

So glad you are ok Elise, what a horrible experience. I hope you never have anything like that again. I rarely fly but the more I do it the more I dislike it, even the slightest turbulance has me uneasy. Really glad you're ok. Enjoy the conference. I'd recommend a few drams before the return trip!

on Saturday, February 25th, Howard said

Some of the news I've been seeing out of Seatle is full of all these problems Alaska Airways has been having. Glad to hear it was just a scare and nothing more.

on Saturday, February 25th, Jackie said

E: My god - thank goodness you made it safely to Anchorage! I had to do so much flying in small planes when I was working in Kodiak. I always felt safer on the big jets... I also saw the local news story the other morning - they said the 'problems' led to Alaksa checking every single one of it's over 100 jets - the pressure systems specifically. Geeze! My ex was a mechanic for Alaska, and he said some mechanics would deliberately do stuff (or omit things on their checklists) when the union contract negotiations were not going the mechanics' way. And he hated to fly...
Sorry - I promise to tell no horror stories till you arrive safely back home!

on Sunday, February 26th, Elise said

Thanks for all of your concern and well wishes. I'm leaving for the airport soon. I ended up getting the flu yesterday on top of everything else. At this point I can't wait to be safely home in my own bed!

on Friday, March 3rd, Julie McBrien said