My own fear story occurred on a 737, twice. Once in the winter when icing froze the slats in place over Montana just after take-off. The co-pilot came down aisle and looked over my seat out the window and said, "uh huh frozen". He then announced on PA to the passengers later after reappearing from the cockpit, "We cannot move the control surfaces into flight mode, the captain will attempt to break the ice by moving the move able flight surfaces back and forth until it breaks free!"
Wow, I was reassured as in panic stricken. The folks on Thompson were faced with engine failure over the Atlantic Ocean. More terrifying than my own frozen wing slat problem in the Rocky Mountains with peaks passing underneath as if in slow motion. The actuator motors were grinding away to break the Icy grip.
The second 737 experience was coming into Denver International. Wind sheer, I heard about on the news when a 737 many years ago smack dab down when taking off from Denver. This time we were banking while making the final approach turn before landing. At about FL50 the bottom dropped out and we went down knifing on its wing tip to about 500 feet above the run way in about 10 seconds. Acting calm, cool, and suave, I smiled at my fellow passenger next to me just to hold back my own fear and nausea. There are many moments I have experienced during my travels, none of them were over a body of water.
Coming from California to Portland, OR we started descending for the approach and a landing at Portland. The 737 descended into a storming cloud system where it pelted the aircraft with extreme weather and caused a very "bumpy" ride. I looked out the window and couldn't see anything but fog and storming. The 737 approach lights were on, demonstrating how thick the storm was as a bench mark for visibility. You couldn't see the wing but you could see a dull glow of lights less than 20 feet from my window The 737 was probably going at least 200 NM per hour faster than the fastest sports car in pea soup.
The engines roared and I grabbed my arm rest in a death grip. Looking out the the window towards the ground was a flash of white rectangles in a row marking the end of the run way. It was my first visible glimpse of something not a storming fog. Two seconds later the wheels touched down in a firm straight line. I remarked to my seat mate, "How did he (pilot) do that? Where I could only just shake my head.
The next point, is about my first flight I ever took was in Montana going over the continental divide. It was on a WWII type DC-3. It was a chartered flight for a sporting event. We were flying to play a football game. The Plane didn't go above 15,000 feet since it was not pressurized. The mountains didn't go higher than 12,000 feet so we were reassured by the flight attendant. I wasn't scared, I was in high school, should I have been, the answer is yes. I watched as sparks flew off the engine cowling. Oil seep over the wing in a flat stream. I asked a teammate it that suppose to do that? He said, "Yeah its part of what piston engines do, they leak. When it lands they will refill the engine oil supply." That reassurance prompted me forward in the game as I could over come anything flying. I was invincible! On the way back we approached the Rocky mountain front. A storm was hanging on the mountains. The pilot adjusted around the storm but we hit fantastic updrafts going around the storm. The wing flex really showed its rivets in full light. I didn't know tin could stretch and bend that much. Sparks, oil slick, and bending wings accompanied my sick stomach from the extreme roller coaster ride. Nothing has ever approached that gum chewing experience as gum was passed out to all passengers to relieve air pressure trapped in the ear. It prevented burst ear drums as sometimes the pressure build-up affected passengers.
The 787 can fly a long way on one engine. The 787 is pressurized at 6,000 ft, not even close to the outside air pressure. No sparks from its engine or oil leaking over the wing, but with a very smooth ride. Wings do flex on the 787, but not from an old "tin lizzy" metal fatigue. Rivets don't pop out during wing flexing. It even doesn't backfire just to wake you up from time to time as on the DC-30. Then I flew on a Ford Tri-motor going all out at 100 miles an hour for a fly around Missoula County airport, Montana, during an airshow when it commemorated the The Forest Service Smoke Jumpers. I think it was the Evergreen Aviation Tri-motor back in the 1970's. I have flown the gauntlet of modern aircraft, except the 787 or the A350. Even with that omission of my experience, I understand the aviation advancements and the remaining risks are always great. The remarkable part for all travellers are aircraft makers have mitigated so many risks by the thousands that a catastrophic failure of any main system has plan B's built into the aircraft integrity. The things we are worried about are far different than my first chartered flight on the DC-3 in 1969. War, and Terrorists, are the leading candidates for an aircraft downing . Engine failures and mechanical problems have not prevented safe flights with the 787.
The Douglas DC-3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner. Its speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.
The major military version of which more than 10,000 were produced was designated the C-47 Skytrain in the USA and the Dakota in the UK.
Many DC-3s and converted C-47s are still used in all parts of the world.
The Ford Trimotor (also called the "Tri-Motor", and nicknamed "The Tin Goose") was an American three-engined transport aircraft that was first produced in 1925 by the companies of Henry Ford and that continued to be produced until June 7, 1933. Throughout its time in production, a total of 199 Ford Trimotors were produced. It was designed for the civil aviation market, and was also used by military units and sold all over the world.