What People Look Like When Their Plane Is About to Crash

As soon as a Reuters photographer heard the plane's engine explode, he pulled out his camera

This article is from the archive of our partner .

If you're afraid of flying, reading this post may or may not make it worse. On one hand it describes a story about the smell of a burning plane engine, the expressions of encumbered panic and the experience of coming to terms with death. On the other hand, everybody lives!

Reuters photographer Beiwharta had just started to fall asleep on a flight with his family from Singapore to Jakarta when two loud bangs jolted him into a frightening reality. Based on Beiwharta's account of what came next, the activity on a crashing plane is just like you might imagine. The smell of acrid smoke stung nostrils. The flight attendants break routine and rush the food carts down the aisle. The lights go out. The flaming engine serves as a horrifying view out the window. And you wonder what it's like to die. Beiwharta wrote:

During my many years of assignments as a Reuters photojournalist, when flying I have imagined being on a plane that had a problem that forced an emergency landing, and then taking pictures. But I never imagined this situation with my family. But it happened. We will die together, so we can fly to heaven together, I thought. If we die together, I will not miss my wife’s delicious cooking, I will not miss the smell of my kids’ sweat. There will be no tears among us. My thoughts, to my surprise, stopped me being afraid any more.

Beiwharta's thoughts lead him to reach for the camera hanging around his neck. Conditions were less than ideal but managed to capture one passenger praying. ""Behind us, passengers were praying: 'God, save our flight! Give us your protection!'" Beiwharta said.

Another shot shows relative calm in the shadow of what appears to be the engine flaming outside of a window.

The Airbus A330 successfully landed in Singapore, and Beiwharta captured the evacuation in better lighting.

Passengers walked off the plane without incident and the captain told them soon thereafter, "The best that we can ever ask of passengers is to stay cool, stay calm ... which you did. And for that we thank you."

According to an airplane safety expert, the uncontained explosion and open flames that Beiwharta saw out the window are "rare."

Along with the airline, Singaporean authorities will lead an investigation into the photographers flight, Cathay Pacific CX 715, in order to discover the cause of the fire. Airbus and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce will cooperate.

Thanks to Adam Frucci for pointing us to the Reuters post in Open Wire.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.