Airbrone drama as Lismore landing proves mission impossible
WE'RE often told that adverse situations bring out the best. As a journalist working in a flood-prone region it's a narrative I know well.
On Wednesday night, without a notepad or camera, I was part of such a story.
Tired and yearning to get back to my kids, I boarded a REX flight from Sydney. Ignoring a Facebook feed which warned of flash flooding in Lismore, I switched to 'flight mode' and boarded the half-full, tiny plane with half-familiar faces.
Thirty minutes into a relatively smooth flight our captain warned us of poor conditions in Lismore, but emphasised that we had enough fuel to get us back to Sydney.
An emergency landing in Ballina was also an option. This update was met with a collective sigh.
"Just get us home" and "Please not Ballina" we chorused.
This ominous news made passengers look up from their iPads and swap stories. If we were going down together we may as well share our children's ages and our occupations.
Another turbulence warning preceded the first attempt to land in Lismore. Then Mother Nature gave us a not-so-polite weather warning.
The little plane shook violently. We clutched white knuckled but were collectively stoic. Suddenly the plane pulled up, the violence stopped and the pilot told us he would give it another crack. A Lismore landing was attempted twice again, and aborted each time.
"I take back what I said about Ballina. Let's try for Ballina," I said.
At Ballina the little plane again oscillated wildly on descent, but to our amazement, this time it did not pull up.
When the bumps of the landing finally ironed out the passengers erupted in spontaneous applause.
The captain thanked everyone for their calm. With fast friendships forged by our scary experience we met our true unheralded hero - Tracy Martin from Ballina Taxis.
She may not have had the Captain stripes on her shirt, but she expertly handled our baggage (emotional and otherwise) and drove us home through flash flooding and torrential rain like a true captain.
To the random passengers who kept their calm, to the captain and crew of REX and to Tracy from Ballina Taxis. I salute. You were all everyday heroes.