Believe it or not, I used to be afraid to fly and I still have minor episodes where I get nervous, especially when flying on long hauls or flights over oceans. This is why I don’t like to watch any movies, TV shows or documentaries involving plane crashes.

I don’t know about you but that opening scene over the South Pacific in Castaway starring Tom Hanks really messed me up for a while. What’s crazy is that a few days later, I was flying to Fiji where the island scenes were filmed.

I also get nervous flying from the West Coast to Hawaii after hearing some dumb fact that it’s the longest route in the world without a place to land in between. But I’ve done that flight dozens of times and airlines do it hundreds of times a day and there have been no problems except on a rare occasion they turn around after a couple of hours for mechanical reasons.

Well yesterday, Arieh Smith, a popular YouTuber with over 5 million subscribers and goes by Xiaomanyc, and who I’ve watched many times because he’s fluent in Mandarin and regularly stuns the heck out of native speakers, created a Vlog about a harrowing experience onboard Delta flight 9923 from JFK to Accra, Ghana.

Arieh titled his vlog: “The scariest day of my life. Thanks to the captain for saving all our lives.” He details the Delta experience which began the night before at midnight when the plane was supposed to depart but ended up getting delayed at the last minute because the pilot became violently sick. So they were rescheduled to 3:30pm the next day.


YouTube video

He says at 2:44: “It’s a couple hours into the flight. Ah maybe two or three hours, close to midway over the Atlantic Ocean. I’m sitting in the midrow and I see the captain come down the aisle and start looking out the window at the wing of the plane okay. So he’s just standing there, he’s looking out the window at the wing of the plane. He’s opening people’s window sliders up on the plane to look out the window. This is the captain, the guy who’s flying the plane. He’s like reaching over people’s seats to open the window and traveling to like multiple people’s seats.”

Arieh says it’s causing a bit of a stir on the plane. He said he remembers saying to the guy next to him, “this doesn’t look good.”

Did You Know: Those little triangle stickers above some of the aircraft’s windows are for giving the pilot the optimal view of the wing? They’re lined up with the edge of the wing.

Arieh says the pilot later got on the PA and made an announcement, “that we’re going to need to return to New York and says the plane is momentarily going to make a right turn and we’re going back and when we get back there’s going to be ground crews to check the configuration of the plane and make sure everything’s okay. And the plane just erupts as you can imagine. Like holy [expletive].”

At 5:38: Arieh says he goes over to talk to one of the flight attendants and she says it’s some kind of fuel leak.

At 5:54 of the 13-minute video gets really emotional as he goes into the lavatory to record a goodbye message to his baby, family, friends in hopes the phone is somehow recovered.

At 10:05 he details how relieved he was to see the New York skyline and to land. When they landed, they had fire trucks and ambulances, which is safety protocol. I’ve unfortunately experienced it multiple times.

At 10:3,5 as he’s deplaning, Arieh asks the captain what actually happened and the pilot explains there was a fuel imbalance. It’s worth watching the video but just know that even when there’s a fuel leak, these planes are still so safe.

In the comments section of the YouTube post, you will find some reassuring posts that there’s really nothing to worry about when flying. BTW: My neighbor is a pilot who flies to Hawaii multiple times a week and I asked him if he ever gets nervous because there’s no place to land if something goes wrong and he said, never.

74 Gear wrote:
“Statistically this will never happen again in your life, BUT just know that if you have a fuel leak on one side of large planes like this the pilots can isolate it to keep the plane flying. Pilots can sometimes be poor communicators of this information because they’re busy flying the plane. The engineers of these planes have thought through every possible scenario and fuel leaks are one of them. Glad you made it back ok.”

Mentour Pilot (another popular YouTuber and commercial pilot) commented:

“Thank you for the video. It’s very sobering as a pilot to see how important proper communication between us, the pilots, and the passengers really is.

A fuel imbalance is a potentially serious condition but far from a really dangerous one. Like the captain said, depending on the configuration of the fuel and the imbalance, one engine could potentially flame out but what he also could have mentioned is that the aircraft can fly fine on the remaining engine AND the aircraft would still be perfectly flyable with that imbalance.

The pilot obviously knew this and decided, together with the company, to return back to JFK to get the aircraft fixed rather than continuing out over the sea.

It’s very likely that, had the pilots known how much anguish this was causing to the passengers, they would have spent more time reassuring them and explaining the issue. This is also a great learning point for cabin crew out there as we need them to communicate how the passengers are feeling and reacting.

What is a routine technical return for us can clearly be perceived as a life-threatening event for passengers and this video was a good reminder of that.”

The captain should have reassured everyone that there was nothing to worry about. Also, a good indication of whether there’s a serious problem is if the flight attendants look nervous, which I assume they didn’t. And if there really was a concern of running out of fuel, why didn’t they divert to Bermuda as it wasn’t that far away?


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