Coming Home

Staring out the window of the half filled Boeing 737-800 our island home came into view as the 526 seat aircraft banked into approach at Kona Airport on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. The ‘Kung Flu’ had cut sharply into tourism, the main economic industry of the state. The imposed flight restrictions which had virtually eliminated jobs in the industry didn’t concern the boys however, they were six. For Lochlan hurdling though the air in a 174,000 pound metal miracle, propelled by the scream of tortured air thrust through twin jet engines was a thrill. He dreamed of sky surfing every day.

Gabriel and Nana were both eagerly anticipating Lochs arrival, the house just wasn’t the same without his incessant affable verbiage. It felt too quiet.

Traffic had moved nicely as they approached the turnoff to Kona Airport. Gabriel gazed in awe at the appearance of a huge jet approaching the runway.

How do they stay up there he contemplated while Nana occupied herself with the driving. She had not noticed the landing gear was not deployed and as they approached the entry to parking Gabriel exclaimed, Nana! Nana startled looking up to see the big jet leveling out above the runway struggling to gain altitude. With a gasp she pulled into the lot and whispered a quiet prayer. The giant aircraft slowly rose and drifted into a turn then circled around again re-approaching at a higher level to give air traffic controllers a view of the landing gear.

Inside the airliner Lochlan along with all passengers follows the pilots instructions as he prepares them for an emergency landing. Tension in the plane rises quickly but with the calm reassuring voice all pilots seem to be born with, the Pilot averts panic for the time. On the ground rescue and fire services are put on standby and the airport is closed to all other traffic.

The Captains confident voice once again is heard over the intercom, this time to reassure anxious passengers the landing gear issue has been resolved and clearance is given for landing. All breathe a sigh of gratitude as the main landing gear touches the runway, but the nose gear is still not fully extended. Suddenly the resounding crash of strained metal as it fails and the nose of the plane slams into the tarmac sending cascades of sparks and debris angrily showering passed windows of terrified passengers. The sound is deafening to young Lochlan. He clings desperately, a silent question in his eyes, “Are we okay?” The stench of tormented metal permeates the air combining with wisps of dark putrid smoke as it creeps into the cabin. We careen, skidding out of control down the runway to the screams, resignation and prayers of terrified individuals. Lochlan and I with several others however remain silent, observing in fascination the events as they unfold. 

For seemingly endless moments the airplane skids on its nose then comes to a complete stop still on the runway. Emergency doors are opened and passengers hurry toward air filled slides eager to disembark, an air of relief and smiles of gratitude for their safe arrival on ground. Lochlan and I are the last two passengers to exit. He smiles through smoke teared eyes and leaps down the slide with the explosive shout of a conqueror.

Nana and Gabriel stood transfixed as they observe the drama unfold from a distance.  Holding onto one another for an eternity in hope and disbelief they finally catch a glimpse of a young blonde boy sliding down the emergency ramp with a shout, voicing his appreciation heavenward.