We climbed through 7,000 feet and I was wondering if I could persuade my family to go see a movie that night when the Lear seemed to run into a brick wall. In that instant I felt sure we’d had a midair collision and that the three of us on the plane—both pilots and me—were going to die. The little galley flew open and vomited its contents. The cushions of the unoccupied seats shot into the air. The little jet tilted...tilted some more...then rolled completely over. I felt that part, but didn’t see it. I had closed my eyes. My life didn’t flash before me. I didn’t think But I had so much more to do. There was no sense of acceptance (or non-acceptance, for that matter). There was just the surety that my time had come.
Then the plane leveled out. From the cockpit, the co-pilot was yelling, “Steve! All okay back there?”
I said it was. I looked at the litter in the aisle, which included sandwiches, a salad, and a piece of cheesecake with strawberry topping. I looked at the yellow oxygen masks hanging down. I asked in an admirably calm voice what had happened. My two-man flight crew didn’t know then, although they suspected and later confirmed we had had a near miss with a Delta 747, been caught in its exhaust, and tossed around like a paper airplane in a gale.
In the 25 years since, I have been a good deal more sanguine about air travel, having experienced just how much trauma modern aircraft can withstand, and how calm and efficient good pilots (which is most of them) can be when the chips are down.
—Excerpted from Stephen King’s introduction to Flight or Fright; 17 Turbulent Tales, an anthology he edited with Bev Vincent.