Category Archives: General

A bang at 10000 feet

I flew from Luton to Edinburgh on Wednesday 5th May 2004.

I was lucky to get there early enough to be issued with easyJet boarding pass no. 22 (easyJet’s free seating policy means we are boarded in four groups: 1-30, 30-60, 60-90, and 90+, I know that doesn’t really work on the perhiphery conditions, but it’s not a science). Whilst waiting to board, we who were in the 1-30 group had a clear view of our aircraft.

An easyTech van appeared, two blokes climbed out…then they climbed in the port side engine. Two pairs of feet and two backsides inside a jet engine: it looked funny. They waved their arms, pointed their fingers, heads rolled, there was much umming and awwing. Then they climbed out of the engine and drove off.

port side engineSeconds later, another easyTech van appeared. The driver de-camped carrying nothing more than a cloth and some spray. He went over to the port side engine, sprayed what looked like polish on the outer perimeter of the engine and proceeded to polish the engine. And he did a nice job of it too. He returned to his van and drove off, a job well done.

Still not sure what he was doing, perhaps it was a bird strike? Perhaps airlines don’t like their passengers seeing bird blood on engines?

We boarded and a few minutes later, took off.

Five minutes into the take-off there was an almighty bang…from the port side of the aircraft. Accompanying the bang, the loudest I’ve ever heard, especially at 10000 feet, was a dazzling flash and what appeared to be a puff of smoke.

Now, if I was the pilot, I would have immediately pulled my stick left, perhaps pushing it forward at the same time. And I’d be screaming “we’re going down” through the tannoy system. Our pilot, perhaps luckily for the other passengers, wasn’t me and didn’t do this: probably because he’s a professional pilot and I’m not. Instead, he chose to say nothing. The stewardess remained calm, the passengers considerably less so.

Many moments of silence passed, nobody really knowing what on earth (or rather in the sky) had just happened. I was sitting on the starboard side ailse seat – for some odd reason we all felt much safer than our fellow passengers sitting on the starboard side. As if that’ll make a difference if the portside engine goes off on a tangent of its own. Heck we’ve got the starboard engine, we’ll be alright…yeah right.

Then the seat belt sign went off. Enter easyKiosk: a trolley service offering “over-priced drinks” (for real, the stewardess had a comical streak) appeared. And they did rather well, selling an awful lot of alcohol…something that I’ve not seen happen in the past. An Act of God helping easyJet marketing and profits? It seems so.

It would seem that we were hit by lightening…did I forget to mention that the weather at Luton airport was stormy?

The last time I was in an aircraft during a lightening storm, sparks bounced along the wings…and I was aged about 8, with no fear. Now that age is getting the better of me, there was an element of fear: once we landed and I got home, I was straight on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 with “damage” settings taking the port side engine out.

It’s amazing how much these 737s can take: one engine is enough…

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