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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 


So coming home from Portugal was a bit of an adventure.

First, as we were sitting and waiting for the plane to start up, something was happening a few seats in front of me with a man, a woman next to him, and another man across the aisle from them. I couldn't tell what was going on. A flight attendant came over:

F.A. #1: Sir, you are sitting in an exit aisle, would you be capable of performing the duties necessary in the event of an emergency?
Man: [inaudible to me]
F.A. #1: Sir... Have you been drinking?
Man: [inaudible]

A few minutes go by and another flight attendant comes out:

F.A. #2: Sir, will you please come up to the front of the plane with me.... Because we need to discuss something, and it would be better if we did it in private... No.... Sir, please....

And not getting the result he wanted, walked away. Another ten minutes go by, and now I'm getting ants because we should be in the air by now, yet we're still sitting at the gate. The second flight attendant returns, this time wearing a very official looking hat.

F.A. #2: Sir, I will be taking your carry on luggage and you will accompany me to the front of the plane.

This time the man complied, and while we walked, he needed to support himself on the seats to keep himself upright. Drunk as a skunk.

Another ten minutes go by, the captain comes on to tell us there was a "situation" with a passenger, but he has voluntarily left the plane and now we can proceed. My companion and I muse about the legal issues of allowing drunk passengers on the plane, and why they might have kicked him out, but whatever. I tell you this because I think it sets up what happened later. We finally do take off and all is well.

Nearing arrival, the plane makes its usual sounds of wheels going down and wing parts shifting, and we can't be more than 50 or 100 feet above the runway when all of a sudden the plane just takes off again!!!

And I mean all the way up. After all that time of looping around Heathrow to land, we come all the way down and then shoot right back up. Now, I'm white as a ghost at this point; I hate taking off and I hate landing. Maybe there's some residual 9/11 television-induced trauma I don't know about (which doesn't make sense now that I think about it; all four of those planes took off perfectly fine). It's never been that big a problem. My friend turned to me and said, "I don't like this, Mo." Apparently I replied "Shut up!! Don't talk!!"

The pilot didn't make an announcement for some time. I was left to my own devices thinking frantically, "ohmigod, the landing gear is stuck! It won't come down! What's going to happen?!?!" and imagining our plane doing circles around London until it ran out of fuel and we crashed and died.

The pilot then finally came on and informed us that another plane was on the runway, so he took off again to avoid hitting it. Ah. Apparently the "control" in "air traffic control" was a bit lacking at Heathrow that day. We landed about half an hour later with no problems. I think I had a fucking heart attack.

Flight attendants and pilot at end of flight: Bye. Bye. Thanks for flying British Air. Bye. Bye.
Me: (to pilot) I think I had a fucking heart attack.
Pilot: (laughing heartedly) Oh! You Americans are so funny!

But seriously guys, what does happen if the landing gear gets stuck??

The landing gear is supposed to fall and lock under it's own weight even if there is no power etc. IIRC, if the normal system doesn't operate, there is a secondary system to release it. If it fails to come down, that's not really going to be the greatest bit of your day. Put it this way, one way or another this plane will reach the ground. The only question is the level of control at the moment it does reach the ground.

You die.

-The SourKraut

I had an aborted landing once in coming into Logan airport in Boston so I sympathise completely. Still on the bright side you now have another story to add to a great trip to Portugal.

BTW You don't die if the landing gear doesn't come down - although I am sure it does scare you half to death .

Check out this link.


It happened at Heathrow in 1997 and no one was seriously injured becuase the pilot knew what to do.

I remember this because it was just before I came home for a Christmas in london from LA and was booked on Virgin.


Quit scaring your mother.

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