When you stop and think about it, flying defies the rules of gravity. Essentially, a bunch of humans (various amounts up to 500+ depending on the aeroplane size) sit inside a giant piece of metal and electricity, travelling through the sky at speeds excess of 900 km/hr. Magic. Illogical, even.
A recent trip really freaked me out, though. If you don’t like hearing about troublesome flights, stop reading now.
I was onboard Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner flight #QF9, on the domestic Melbourne-Perth leg (the plane then continues onto London). We had boarded, the doors had closed, and we were pulling back from the gate/terminal. The crew were standing, and the safety video had started.
“Please pay attention as the crew go through the safety features of this Boeing 787 Drea…” *thud*.
Everything suddenly switched off. No screens. No lights. No sound. The whole plane lost power. Definitely a Dreamliner, it falls asleep before it can take off! I know that was a bad joke – I’m not sorry though!!
To be fair, the plane I was flying on had been named “Boomerang”, and I should have expected the unexpected….
A couple of minutes passed. The crew continued to stand, looking like they were doing something important, however I noticed the curiosity on their faces.
The screens and lights flicker. “mliner…” *Thud*. Everything went off again. I have to be honest, I don’t think there were any *thud*’s at that point. I don’t know how else to describe it though.
A couple of minutes later…
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen (whilst I think about it, Qantas promotes LGBTQI+ acceptance with Mardi Gras and other events, yet they still don’t acknowledge non-binary individuals) this is your Captain speaking. You may have noticed we have lost power…” everyone, me included, roll their eyes. “…as we pulled back from the gate, we went to start the engines. The electrical transmission seems to have sent the wrong message to the engines, temporarily disabling the aircraft. We’re going to have to go back to the gate and get the engineers to have a look at the issue, I’ll update you with more information shortly.”
Yup. The Qantas Captain went and told us exactly what had happened. Not “There’s a technical issue”, or “we’ve lost power we’re figuring out why”; a full explanation of what had occurred.
“Cabin crew please return to your seats and await further instructions”,announces the Cabin Manager.
The lights and screens are still flickering. But the air comes back on. No lights though.
Another few minutes pass.
“G’day it’s your Captain again. The engineers have decided that it’s too hard to get us back to the gate, so they’re going to come to us on the taxiway. I’ll keep you updated.”
/sigh. I look out the window at the Air New Zealand plane departing from the gate near us, wishing I was on that plane instead. Three or four vans with flashing lights had appeared next to us – I’m assuming they were the engineers. The next twenty minutes goes past, I start texting my friends *the plane died*. Technically it had?
*At least you’re still on the ground?* a friend texts back. Can’t argue with that one!
Eventually, the speakers wake up again.
“It’s your Captain again. Good news – the engineers have talked us through the issue, and we’re all good to go. Air traffic control have given us permission to start the engines, and we’ll be getting on our way shortly. We’ll do our best to make up for the lost time.”
Excuse me? 45 minutes ago the whole plane turned itself off. We’re now being told “it’s all good”? I feel like screaming and demanding to be let off, like I’m in one of those hellish TV reality shows. I remain silent.
The engines start up. We sit in the same spot for another 5 minutes.
“This is your Cabin Manager. Due to the entertainment system crashing, I’m going to have to talk you through the safety features myself. Cabin crew please take your positions.”
The next five minutes or so we listened to the Cabin Manager, who clearly had never had to read out the safety features before.
“I’ll now try to reboot the entertainment system for you. Unfortunately, due to the way the system works, it’ll probably go through the safety video again. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
As we move towards the runway, the entertainment system resets, and the darn safety video plays again. A silent collective groan goes through the cabin. Or maybe that was just my head.
After sitting at the end of the runway for what seems like forever, we take off. In all the drama, I’d forgotten that I had a front economy bulkhead seat – plenty of leg room, but the entertainment screen inside the armrest. Meanwhile I was distracted by this massive *THUD* and *WHIRR* underneath me. I freak out again. Oh. It’s just the landing gear retracting, and the wings being adjusted. Whilst the 787 Dreamliner is a quiet plane to fly in, it’s really loud when it starts doing mechanical things.
We didn’t hear from the flight deck for the next three hours…
In the meantime, a whiff of garlic makes its way from the back of the plane and encompasses the whole cabin – garlic bread was served with dinner. As they serve dinner one of the flight attendants pulls out my TV screen – I hadn’t been bothered to do so, and insists I have a wine and watch something. Sure.
Eventually, the Captain’s voice appears again. “Sorry for not getting back to you, we’ve been busy working to make up the hour we lost. We’re going to be landing about 5 minutes behind our original ETA, as we flew at a lower altitude to avoid the worst of the headwinds. If you’re leaving the plane in Perth we apologise again for the delays. If you’re continuing onto London, we want to reassure you that the aircraft is 100% serviceable…”
There’s a bit to unpack there. Firstly, I had noticed we flew the whole trip at 27,000ft. Usually they’ll fly at anything from 34,000-41,000. Also, as I just mentioned, we flew the WHOLE trip at that height. So much for “being busy making up time” – they put the plane on autopilot and let it fly itself. I wonder what they were doing…
I also couldn’t help but burst out with a giggle when he mentioned the plane being 100% serviceable for the passengers continuing to London.
Fast forward another twenty minutes, and we land without any issues. Apart from my fingers which were bleeding from me chewing on them anxiously for the past four hours.
At least I’m getting a A330 back next week, I think to myself, terrified of the thought I’ll have to fly again in just a few days time.
On reflection, I realised what had happened: “the pilots essentially stalled the plane, and, like when you stall a car, it takes a while to get itself going again.”
I still don’t think I’ll fly on a Qantas Dreamliner again anytime soon!!Tags: Flying, Sensory, Story
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