It’s one thing to skim past a headline about how the Utah Jazz had to make an emergency landing after their charter plane collided with a flock of birds shortly after taking off in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, or to see pictures of the resulting damage. Both experiences are likely to leave you thinking something along the lines of, “Damn! That’s freaky!” before moving on with your day.
I regret to inform you that you will not be able to move on from this story so easily after hearing directly from the Jazz players about what being on that plane was actually like. Here is Jordan Clarkson describing the moment things started to go wrong:
“All I heard was a bang,” said Clarkson. “Then I turn and look out the window, and I see the whole engine shaking and everything […] The whole plane just started shaking, it was definitely an experience that I’m happy we are able to tell, because like I said, a lot of us really came to a point, at least 30 seconds into that flight, everybody came to the point where it was like, ‘man, this might be over for us.'”
And here is Mike Conley talking about his experience:
“The plane immediately started to bounce and then just started tilting to the left, and people in the back of the plane said they saw flames, and people in the front obviously didn’t know what was going on,” said Conley. “It took the pilots probably five to 10 minutes, probably about 10 minutes, to go through everything, go through their checks and get back to us and let us know what was going on, because it was obvious that something was really wrong with the plane. It felt like the plane was breaking apart in mid-air. So, for, like I said for five or 10 minutes, for us it felt like complete helplessness.”
After landing, the Jazz eventually boarded another flight that took them to Memphis, where they played the Grizzlies last night. Donovan Mitchell was not on that plane, and did not play in Wednesday night’s game due to what the team is calling “personal reasons.” Back in 2017 before he was drafted, Mitchell told reporters that he has a real fear of flying.
Taking dozens of flights a year is essentially a job requirement for any professional athlete, which really sucks for guys like Mitchell, who is now surely going to have an even harder time dealing with air travel than he did before. Getting to games by bus isn’t really feasible, which means there is only one solution: Joe Biden must fast-track his infrastructure plan and ensure that high-speed rail travel to all cities with NBA teams is available as soon as possible.