Being a frequent air traveller, I’m conscious that I’ll suffer more delays and circle London for longer than a lot of other folk. At the back of my mind, simple statistics reminds me that high frequency means I’m more likely to experience technical problems on the ground and potentially in the air.
Technical difficulties on the ground are at least an annual occurrence. The scene of an engineer carrying a large screwdriver into the cockpit makes my heart sink every time. One Flybe flight from Belfast City to Birmingham a few years ago that always sticks in my mind. We taxied out to the runway, thrust the engines, and then instead of tearing down the runway and taking off ... we tootled back into the terminal with the captain explaining over the tannoy that the plane wouldn’t “be going anywhere today”.
Last year saw 83 take-offs, and more importantly, an equal number of 83 landings. The bit in the middle (between take off and landing) is the safest part of the journey.
But there’s a matter-of-factness about how I choose to approach the business of flying. If I’m not in an aisle seat, I always wonder whether the person blocking my exit is likely to make a swift exit and clear a path to the nearest door. Or ponder whether we’ll all trample each other in a bid to escape a burning plane.
So there was a sense of relief – and practically delight - this afternoon that I read the news report (and suffered some of the continuous loop of reporting on News 24) that explained the plane had landed and stopped without going on fire, and that everyone had evacuated the plane with only minor injuries. A miracle.
And in the days ahead - as there will inevitably be delay on tomorrow’s flight across to Heathrow – I’ll try to remember that the disruption is only temporary, and that the 250 tonne G-YMMM Boeing 777 plane that’s blocking one end of Heathrow’s southern runway (and may prove difficult to move) is a monument to a miracle.
Click over to Seth Jaworski snap at jetphotos.net if you want to see an incredible photo of the plane at the centre of today’s emergency coming into land at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport on Christmas Eve.