Do you enjoy flying?
As for me, I love flying. In the past few years, I've been flying quite frequently. Mostly, I travel alone. But I truly enjoy my lone time - new airports, good food, the shops, and I definitely have a weakness for book stores...all this, I enjoy thoroughly. But lately, I think I am starting to develop a certain fear of flying. Dear Toastmasters and guests, I want to call this story, 'The Wings of Fear'.
I have a friend who works in the airline industry. He handles the operations department - importing parts, assembling them, etc. A very hardworking guy who spends almost 16-20 hours at work every day and still loves it! He's very passionate about his work and because he is passionate, he knows a lot about the industry. He tells me, the less you know about the airline industry, the better. After he got into this industry, he is now more comfortable when his feet is planted on the ground. But how can you blame him? Here's a glimpse of one of the real-life incidents that he told me about. And after listening to this, I am sure you will also think twice before booking your next flight ticket.
The hero of this story is a British Airways flight. Its Captain was a 42 year-old man who had logged over 11,000 hours of flight hours. The co-pilot, a 39 year-old man had logged over 7500 hours of flying time. The flight took off at 7:20 am local time from the Birmingham airport with 81 passengers, 4 cabin crew and 2 flight crew. The co-pilot handled the routine take-off and gave the control to the pilot as the plane established itself in its climb. Both the pilots subsequently released their shoulder harness and the pilot loosened his lap belt as well.
At 7:33, that is, 13 minutes after the take off, there was a huge bang inside the cockpit and the air quickly filled with condensation. The left windscreen on the captain's side of the cockpit had separated from the main structure. The Captain who was not wearing his lap belt, got jerked out of the flight, forced head first out of the cockpit. His knees got stuck in the flight controls. At this point his entire upper torso was out of the aircraft and only his legs were inside. Because of the huge gush of air, the door of the flight deck was blown out into the radio and navigation control, causing the flight to continue to gain speed while descending.
Paper and other debris from the passengers cabin began blowing towards the cockpit. The flight attendant quickly latched onto the pilot's belt. The captain was being battered and frozen in the high speed and was loosing consciousness due to thin air. The co-pilot meanwhile, began an emergency descent, re-engaged the auto-pilot and broadcast a distress call. The pilot had already shifted an additional 6-8 inches and his face was continuously hitting the front window.
They noticed that his eyes were open and not blinking despite the force against the window. They assumed he was dead, but they couldn't release his body for fear that it might fall and hit the left engine causing an engine fire or failure. Somehow the co-pilot finally managed to land the flight at 7:55 am. The passengers were all safely de-boarded. The captain's body was quickly taken to the hospital. Miraculously, the captain was still alive. Thank god they didn't release his body thinking he was dead. But he suffered from frostbite, bruising, shock, fractures to his right arm, left thumb and right wrist.
Do you know what had caused such a huge mishap? The windscreen of the flight had been installed just 27 hours before the flight and it was fitted with an incorrect set of bolts. Some of them were 1 mm too small in diameter and some others, 2.55 mm too short. As the flight took off, the air pressure difference caused the windscreen to fail. They had to fit the windscreen in a hurry, as the plane was due to take off soon and there was a tight schedule.
Can you imagine that a small unintentional mistake by the ground staff can lead to such a huge mishap? So, as a person who knows the inside-outs of the airline industry, my friend gasps every time he boards a flight. After listening to his stories, now I do too!
PS: The story courtesy (especially the vivid details) goes to Wikipedia