What if?

Fantastic holiday!! xxxxxx

“Never worry about anything over which you have absolutely no control”, that’s often been my advice. It’s pointless, if you can’t influence or affect the outcome then why concern yourself? You can’t change anything so don’t worry about it. As the CFM56-5 Turbofan jet engine spools up not twenty feet to the left of me I let the accelerative forces gently press my head back into the headrest and quietly, fervently, wish I could follow my own advice.

What if? What if?? What if we have a major engine failure at the point of take off? Too fast to stop, too slow to go. Would we veer off course with the thrust of just one engine and crash? Or would the pilot be able to maintain direction so we stay on line, overshoot the runway, and crash. At 170mph I feel the nose lift followed by the surreal feeling of over seventy tons of Airbus A320 going light and the ground falls away beneath me.

What if, what if? What if we have a bird strike, wasn’t that what happened to the airliner that ditched in the Hudson? That was an A320 wasn’t it? There’s no river near here we could drop into. What if we lose power, something breaks, what if? The Blonde squeezes my hand gently and kisses me on the cheek, she knows I’m beyond normal reasoning, putting me on an aircraft just makes it worse… I gaze nervously out of the window at the rapidly receding earth, sweet, solid, reassuring earth dropping away from us as we power smoothly and forcefully into the crisp clear early morning sky, 60,000 pounds force of thrust battering Newton’s Theory of Gravitation to a pulp. I slip off my wrist watch, a dual time zone affair I’d worn specially, unscrew the crown and pull it out one click. Two clicks adjusts the whole watch but one click allows me to flick the hour hand forward two hours without disturbing the running of the movement, leaving the fourth “GMT” hand to point to UK time. Cool. That passes 30 seconds, so I relieve The Blonde of her sleek ceramic and titanium Rado Integral and wind that forward to destination time as well before returning to the more pressing concern of our take off thus far.

Thirty minutes and thirty eight thousand feet later I finally admit that the take off seems to have gone well. Time to stop worrying about that and start fretting about the journey instead. What if someone has put a bomb on the plane? When it detonates, will we know about it or be killed instantly? Will we remain concious as we plummet to earth still strapped to our chairs? Will we feel the intense freezing cold of the high altitude? It’s minus fifty five degree’s centigrade at 38,000 feet, add 500mph’s worth of wind chill factor and it’s bound to be a bit parky out there. In the event of total engine failure how far can an Airbus glide? Can an Airbus glide in fact? Would it be better to be over the sea and have to ditch into it, or over land and try and get to an airstrip? What if we’re over the Alps?

They’re “fly by wire” aren’t they? What if the computer packs up? There was a story in the paper just before we left about an Airbus that had suffered total control shutdown for “several minutes”. All the screens went blank and the aircraft veered off course apparently. By the time the pilots had it back under control they were twenty miles off course! Why hadn’t the planes been grounded whilst they investigated that one? Why was I sat on one, hurtling through the sky at over 500mph, waiting for the reported shuddering and the veering off course?

I pick up my book and start reading it. The second half of Chris Evans autobiography, crazy fascinating stuff. I try to forget the frail aluminium frame surrounding me and concentrate instead on the wild ride that is Chris Evans life so far.

Another hour and I was starting to need a pee. Now obviously I know that unstrapping myself and walking forward to the loo is unlikely to tip the plane into an uncontrolled flat spin, but it just doesn’t feel right to move about, cough, sneeze, or generally do anything that could threaten the delicate balance of artificial and wholly unnatural winged flight. Unfortunately it’s another three hours to destination. I decide to risk it. Walking unsteadily past rows of people to the toilet feels innocuously like wandering down a railway carriage. I remember best chum Steve’s advice, a frequent flier he once remarked to me “they’re just buses with wings mate, nothing to worry about”. Toward the pointy end the noise of the air battering the fuselage and streaking past grows ever louder. “Yeah, 500mph 38,000ft high buses, mate” I muse, bitterly.

Re-installed next to The Blonde I offer a silent prayer of thanks to Sir Stellios, founder of Easyjet, and delve back into the adventures of Evans.

Engrossed in my book the next couple of hours fly (ahem) by and all seems to be running very smoothly when without warning I feel the power wind off simultaneously from both engines and the nose drop perceptibly. I glance at my watch, we’re about half an hour away from ETA so either we’re preparing to land, or we’ve suffered a catastrophic failure in both engines and are nose diving toward oblivion. I glance around at the cabin crew, they seem unperturbed so I cross my fingers and pray for the former. Seriously, how hard would it be to put out a quick message from the captain? “Ladies and Gentlemen we’re half an hour from destination and about to begin our descent”, that’s all I ask. Fifteen words just to re-assure any fliers of nervous disposition that all is well on the flight deck and that they aren’t in fact screaming “Mayday Mayday” into the radio. Not too much to ask is it?

The Blonde murmurs re-assuring platitudes into my ear, explaining that we are just dropping down to land. Like she’d know whether or not we are in fact running out of fuel and this is a last desperate bid to get the crate back on Terra firma without too much collateral damage. As it happened she was right, but that’s missing the point.

I gaze out of the window and my mind turns to landing, and the spectacular crosswind landing video on Youtube (well worth a quick look, just search “Youtube” and then “crosswind landings”). Landing can be the most difficult and dangerous part, getting it wrong just as the speed of the plane drops below minimum flight speed leaves no second chances beyond grabbing a fist full of throttle and hoping to claw desperately back into the air before running out of runway or veering off and striking something solid at circa 150mph, ripping the aircraft to shreds and scattering debris and bodyparts over a wide and varied area. That’s assuming everything keeps working properly of course, remember the plane that crash-landed at Heathrow recently after losing all engine on final approach? Freezing fuel lines apparently, the pilot managed to get it down safely, but when they reconstructed the scenario on the simulator later it reckoned it couldn’t be done!

I look out of the window anxious to catch my first glimpse of the island, our holiday paradise for the next seven days. Through the light mist I spot calm gently rippled Mediterranean sea. Perfect, if it all goes to rats at least we’ve got ideal conditions for a marine ditching, and being so far south it should be quite pleasantly warm to drown in if we can’t escape the plane in time. Then I spy land, just the tail end of the island through the heat haze, gliding gently up to meet us. We drop lower and lower, gathering everything into focus, it looks beautiful. I grab the camera and fire off a shot of the harbour as we swoop past it.

Closer and closer the ground edges, I can see the shadow of the plane on the dusty ground, coming to meet us. The pilot slows to what feels like walking speed, don’t stop now for flips sake man, we’re still two hundred feet up!! But against all odds the plane continues to hang in the air, nose up now, sinking confidently toward Mother Earth. Fifty feet to go and suddenly the dry barren land turns to concrete edged with landing lights, hallelujah, runway! The plane sinks the final few feet and with a gentle bump the main landing gear touches down. Seconds later the nose wheels join it and air brakes sweep gracefully up from the wings, adding to the firm retardation pulling us forward in our seats, the plane slowing almost to a standstill, creeping across the tarmac and swinging toward the terminal.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cyprus. Local time is 3:30pm and the temperature is twenty six degrees centigrade”.

I gently unclamp my fingers one by one from the vice like grip I have of The Blonde’s hand, look at her and smile. “There you go”, I say, “Piece of cake. Honestly, I really don’t know what you get so worried about”.


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