A couple of exciting ‘firsts’ for me in a flight I took earlier today. My first long distance business class trip, and my first near-miss airline crash :).
The only thing I have to say about the business class experience is that for the first time in my life, I was able to sleep for 8 hours on a flight, and I think that alone is worth the ridiculous premium that you pay.
The near-crash was very cool. We took off about an hour late because apparently the pilot could not get one of the brakes on the wheels disengaged, and a mechanic had to come in and disengage them manually.
The flight itself was uneventful but when we landed at Frankfurt, the plane had a brief taxi – perhaps a few hundred meters before coming to a very rapid stop. The pilot came online and told us the problem with the brakes had recurred – one of them had engaged automatically, wasn’t disengaging, and what is more, during the short taxiing run, had overheated so much that it was almost on fire. Two huge fire engines rushed to the tarmac and started spraying water on the wheels.
The pilot was very cool throughout, and eventually they found the brakes completely unworkable, so the plane had to be towed to the terminal.
I was reminded of Flanders and Swann’s classic piece about flying, in their second album, ‘At the drop of another hat’. Flanders makes one joke after another about the perils of flying – about airport buses whizzing around London, he says ‘They must have had instructions to keep the statistics favorable’ – and finally ends with ‘As the old woman once said, if God had intended to fly, he wouldn’t have given us the railways’. And then launches into a song about the Railways, called ‘Slow Train’ (one of my favorites).