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It's been just over a year since I first looked on the website and started using some of Captain Keith's tips and strategies, as well as accessing the wealth of info he shares with us on here and in the book. Since then, I've had 2 enjoyable flights, both to Gran Canaria.... And a recent return flight to the UK that was not so enjoyable - but a good test for me!!
All of my most recent flights have been smooth, fair weather, turbulence-free flights, so coming in to land last Monday eve at Gatwick Airport in the gale-force winds was a very different experience. The pilot made one attempt and then decided he wasn't going to try again at Gatwick, so we diverted to East Midlands where the landing was relatively smooth. Although the attempt at Gatwick felt very alarming to me because it was so bumpy and the only mental strategy I felt I had left was to try and zone out as much as possible and detach myself from the whole situation, at the back of my mind was what Captain Keith has explained about the 'go-around'. As the final approach got bumpier and bumpier, it was reassuring to know that this is an option for the pilot and when we did suddenly climb again, I knew exactly what was happening, and it felt like a huge relief. What stuck in my mind was Captain Keith saying it is completely routine for pilots to do this (if not a little tricky in some circumstances, surely??). So knowing that this is nothing out of the ordinary for pilots to deal with was very reassuring. If I hadn't known what was happening, I think I would have panicked... even more :-/ What also helped was having prompt updates from the cabin crew and the pilot himself - he seemed to announce his new plan to divert very quickly and of course sounded completely calm! I did want to literally kiss the tarmac when we got off at E. Midlands, though :-)
So now having felt fearful again, I am a little concerned about it affecting getting on a plane again for me (I am planning a trip to the US in April). Initially I felt quite triumphant when we got off the plane on Monday - I mean, those must be some of the roughest weather conditions to fly in, surely? So now I have experienced first-hand 'the worst' and a go-around, and seen it all handled so smoothly, I feel like turbulence and changes of plan needn't bother me so much. The thought is much worse than what happens in reality.
One question though: The pilot clearly told us that the tower at Gatwick had informed him of 30mph winds with 40mph gusts, yet he said on the final approach there were 80mph gusts at 2000ft and that the 4 aircraft in front of us had also gone around. Why would there be such a discrepancy between the weather report he receives and what it's like in reality?