What is it like to be in an aircraft lavatory during turbulences or cabin decompression?

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Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:

Reading your question immediately brought me back to my teen years and a funny story.

When I was a teenager, I would travel occasionally on Delta Air Lines and Eastern Airlines between New York and Tampa Florida. I loved it. I would look forward to every second of each trip from packing to unpacking. It was clear, flying was in my blood.

One of my pre-planning tasks I would do was keep an eye on the weather for the days leading up to my trip. I loved the bumpy rides and look forward to finding out there would be pop up thunderstorms forecast for my flight. As any regular flyer knows, during the summer months in Florida there are almost always cumulus clouds and scattered thunderstorms from 3pm to 7pm. So, on this particular hot summer flight from New York to Tampa I knew it was going to be a fun ride over Florida.

On the day of my flight, I was sure to get a back seat where the bumps, swinging and swaying would be felt the most. Unfortunately, that's where the smoking section was back then too. Yuk! The takeoff, climb and cruise were smooth and uneventful. A huge meal was served, check this out:

except I remember a chocolate layer cake that day. Anyway, the descent came a little early because the Stewardesses (we call them flight attendants now) were collecting trays and drinks early. A sure sign that the fun would be starting soon.

The captain came on just as we were beginning our descent and turned on the seat belt sign stating that we'll have some turbulence on our descent. Immediately following his announcement, the Stewardesses finished collecting everything and took their seats. My face was buried in the window trying to catch a glimpse of the clouds we were approaching. Just as I saw the first glimpse of some pretty large cumulus formations I smiled and looked into the cabin to see if anyone else was sharing the same joy I was feeling. Wouldn't you know it, as I was smiling away a young women walked passed my seat heading to the bathroom. I tried to say something but she had already passed. I had a really good idea what was to happen next.

As soon as we entered the billowing clouds we were being tossed about like a rag in the wind. I enjoyed every moment; but, all I could think about was that poor women in the lavatory that decided to ignore the seat belt sign and not head the Captains warning to the expected turbulence.

After about 10 minutes of the whoops-e-daisy's, the young lady finally came out of the lav. She was completely soaked with, well use your imagination. I could tell she was embarrassed an nobody said a thing. I thought to myself, how many times I've seen folks ignore those seat belt signs and directions from the crew to stay in your seats and keep your seat belt fastened when things were going to get rough.

The real impressive thing was that the stewardesses also had the same judgmental thoughts I did; yet, they kept their composer and were completely professional and accommodating. They did everything they could to clean her up and make her feel comfortable so that she wouldn't leave the plane all disheveled. A real class operation and dedication to customer service I thought as a youngster.

The moral to the story I suppose would be to listen and follow the guidance and direction from the flight and cabin crew. It may seem repetitive and routine. We [pilots] can't alway predict every moment that turbulence or and emergency will occur. We shy on the safe side most of the time to ensure your safety. So, head our warnings and guidance. One out of Ten times we'll be right and you'll be glad you kept your seatbelt on.

Fly Safe!

Thomas Zerbarini

What is it like to be in an aircraft lavatory during turbulences or cabin decompression?

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