Tuesday, 7 January 2014

EMERGENCY AT 37,000 FEET UP!

My young friend and I started the day full of the joys of going on holiday to Bali and Singapore. We chose the biggest aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet - the all new super two storey A380. We'd been flying for about 6 hours and at about 37,000 feet were flying over Afghanistan in the dark when suddenly an announcement (I'd been dreading in all the years I've been flying) came over the loudspeaker. "Emergency, emergency." Oxygen masks came down from the ceiling - except for ours. My young friend managed to free them and we then struggled to put them on. The plane then dived very rapidly and we saw from our screens that it had made a 180 degree turn. It took nearly half an hour to get down to 10,000 feet where it was apparently safe to take the masks off - not that many people did. Here's the scene from our seats.


And here am I - petrified - with my mask covering up my fear.


After levelling out, the next announcement came. "Does anyone on board speak Russian?" It seemed the captain had decided the best place to land was in Kazakhstan - about 2 hours away, as we couldn't fly over mountain ranges. He probably couldn't get permission to land there, and anyway no one owned up to speaking Russian, so plan 2 was to aim for Azerbaijan. We then spent three hours in pitch darkness not knowing where we were and still frightened. We finally landed in Azerbaijan, where we are now. It's 3.30 in the morning and we are here in a very uncomfortable departure lounge. It's taken nearly 2 hours to be offered a drink and as it appears only Russians can get visas, we can't, and therefore are not allowed to leave the airport. We've just been given some good news - a replacement plane will be sent out from Singapore - but the bad news is that it will take a minimum of 14 hours. So we are all now stuck on extremely uncomfortable metal chairs for who knows how long.
One of the aircrew said that the reason for the rapid decompression was that a door had not been closed properly at Heathrow, consequently as we climbed towards the mountains above Afghanistan the problem manifested itself. Had the door blown off - as it could have done at that pressure - we wouldn't be here now. It seems this is the first time in 35 years that Singapore Airlines have needed to deploy oxygen masks! Some of the passengers seated near the defective door said the noise (and this from the supposed quietest aircraft in the world) in that part of the cabin was so deafening that they couldn't even hear the announcements.
Now to face an interminable stay in this most unpleasant place I'll end now and continue with the next episode of this saga in another blog tomorrow.
At least we are alive. But pretty badly shaken. We both honestly thought we would crash and I can't tell what thoughts went through our minds

3 comments:

prop said...

What an amazing life you lead Bill! Glad to hear that you and YF are basically ok of course but just think of the lunch invitations coming your way on this! Seriously, I hope all goes well for you; easy to say but relax and take it in your stride - you lived to tell the tale.
Prop

Wes and Rachelle Siegrist said...

Have to agree Bill - we're glad you guys are both safe and sound and once this is all over we're sure your retelling it will get funnier with time. Hope the time passes quickly for you both!

RG9 said...

Bloody hell, Bill, that's pretty un-nerving.
I've been to Kazakhstan quite a few times on behalf of British Airways - I helped set up the Heathrow-Almaty service ten or so years ago.
English was/is the international language of the airports there so I'm very surprised the Captain felt they needed a translator to make an emergency landing.
Anyway, at least you are both safe and sound even if you were badly shaken by the event.
Having some idea of the sanitation facilities in that part of the world you will probably be pretty glad to get on the replacement aircraft when it arrives!
I hope you've left some slack on the mooring lines on your boats - vehicles are driving through standing water on Thameside North this morning as the flood levels rise still further.
Here's to a safe and uneventful onward flight - and a very enjoyable holiday.