1998, and I was traveling from Jakarta to Washington DC to arrive in time for the scheduled C-section birth of my son. I had a layover in Honolulu and boarded the flight to LA (the second of three flights!) well before dawn. The flight took off uneventfully, and just as we reached cruising altitude and breakfast began to be served...the entire passenger cabin rapidly depressurized. At that point, two oxygen masks tumbled from the seat back in front of me onto my lap. I stared at them, handed one to the guy on my left, and put the other on. The plane then began a steep dive...a really steep dive, with the noise of the wind and the shaking aircraft increasing.No screams, no conversation, and no announcements over the PA. Needless to say, I wondered if I was going to meet my soon-to-be-born son and see again my 4-year old daughter and my wife.
After what seemed like a really long time, the plane began to level off. At that moment, the captain came onto the PA, apologized for the lack of communication ("I was kind of busy up here..."), and explained that all the panel lights were green but one - cabin pressure. He had no idea why we lost cabin pressure. He had had to dive from cruise to 12,000 feet in order for us to take off the oxygen masks. The bad news? We had to return to Hawaii!
When I got off of the plane, avoided the reporters and TV cameras and went straight to the pay-phone (remember those?). I called the local office of my company, who arranged for another LA flight within 2 hours! I arrived in DC 2 hours before the birth, jet-lagged, stressed, but happy and relieved to be there with my wife and daughter. My son turned 20 last February.