This sounds like the flight from hell.
Weather was pretty bad in the Northeast today. But no matter how bad your commute or travel plans were, I don't think they were worse than 50 or so souls aboard a United Airlines flight into Dulles airport outside Washington reportedly endured.
The single line on an otherwise staid official report from the Aviation Weather Center at the National Weather Service says it all:
P CRJ2/TB MOD-SEV/RM VERY BUMPY ON DESCENT. PRETTY MUCH EVERY ONE ON THE PLANE THREW UP. PILOTS WERE ON THE VERGE OF THROWING UP. AWC-WEB
Let me just repeat that in case the ALLCAPS threw you off:
"Very bumpy on descent. Pretty much everyone on the plane threw up. Pilots were on the verge of throwing up."
Decoding, it seems this was a Bombardier CRJ-200 airplane, which seats about 50 people. And, United Airlines confirmed to me that it was theirs--or perhaps more accurately, an Air Wisconsin flight operating as United Express:
"Air Wisconsin Flight 3833 operating as United Express from Charlottesville, Va. to Washington Dulles International encountered turbulence because of high winds.
A few customers onboard the regional jet became ill as the aircraft was preparing to land. The aircraft landed safely and taxied to its gate. No customers required medical attention because of the turbulence."
I'm glad everyone was safe, of course. But which was it?
"A few customers," or "pretty much everyone" including (almost) the pilots?
The truth is, we don't know--and we probably never will.
(If you were aboard and want to talk--contact me!)
But before this turns into some kind of blame-the-airline story, let me just say this to the pilot and copilot who were behind the controls:
Under more dire circumstances, I was a passenger aboard a several aircraft in Iraq that took fire, including an Air National Guard C-130 that was damaged badly enough to get the heck out of Baghdad and fly directly to Kuwait in 2007.
Each time, I walked away--and walked away with immense respect for the pilots. Even as the pilots, in every case, shrugged it off as just another day on the job.
I suspect it's the same thing here. It's not exactly a natural thing to cram a few dozen or hundred people into a pressurized metal tube, and go hurtling through the sky.
Yet we take it for granted that our society produces machines and teaches people to do exactly that--and do it safely, statistically speaking, more often than any other mode of transportation.
So sure, it was probably pretty gross to have everyone (or even "a few") of your fellow passengers vomiting.
But to be able to control the plane while you yourself are about to get sick?
My hat is off.
For what it's worth, the weather isn't getting any better for those of this in the Northeast.
In fact, I'm writing this while stuck on a NJ Transit commuter train from New York City, which has lost power and is in the middle of the track somewhere near Secaucus.
So far, at least, nobody's getting sick.