A Bit off Piste – An eventful flight to Toulouse

This has nothing to do with model engineering but thought you might find it amusing/interesting.

Following my wife having spotted some low cost tickets to Toulouse from London Gatwick, we decided to make a quick trip to France to check out that all at our house was OK. The flight bookings were with a well known budget airline that has orange corporate colours. 

We checked in OK and the flight pulled away from the stand dead on time but 5 minutes later we were back where we started from.   As the Captain said ‘one of his shortest flights’.   Apparently a critical sensor in the port engine had gone AWOL.  Technicians were called and we sat for 2 hours on the plane while they analysed and fixed the problem.

Off we went once again but having missed our takeoff slot we were now at the back of the taxi queue.  Finally we were sat at the end of the runway and the brakes were released …. only for pandemonium to break out in the cabin.   The crew started rushing round and shouting to stay in our seats.   The take off was aborted and we sat mid runway.    Within minutes the plane was surrounded by all manner of fire appliances. 

Apparently a passenger’s lithium power tank had burst into flames.  I guess his or her laptop or phone’s battery had died while we were waiting for the sensor to be fixed and while topping up from the power tank the charging current surge had upset things.   The crew had been quick to put the offending article in a fire proof box.

After blocking the runway for 6 minutes, we were escorted off the runway by the fire crew vehicles to a quiet area of the airfield.  A team of fireman boarded the plane and took away the offending article. 

While 6 minutes does not seem long there would have been a lot of landings and takeoffs blocked.  Had we been airborne when the smoke appeared we could have been sliding down escape slides and the weather outside would not have made that much fun.

Because there had been an incident the airline procedure required that the crew had to be changed so they could be debriefed.   We were therefore now faced the delay while a new crew was found.   Further to this an offer was made that anyone wanting to leave the flight could do so (they didn’t ask for ‘any passengers of a nervous or superstitious disposition’).   A number of passengers decided this was the best option.  This meant a baggage crew had to be found to find their bags in the hold.   So we had a baggage crew and a flight crew to wait for.

When the new crew arrived they had to search the cabin to match bags to passengers to ensure nothing owned by the departing passengers had been left behind (suspicious or otherwise).

After a total delay of 5 hours (still sitting in our allocated seats), we finally got airborne for Toulouse.

I won’t extend your boredom by telling you about the hire car shambles on our arrival.

We think we might think twice about flying to Toulouse another time but I have to say all credit to the flight crew, the technicians and the fire services for their swift and professional actions.

Postscript : – better to travel hopefully ….. we then had a 3 hour delay on the way home.   Weather at Gatwick delayed the flight out to Toulouse.  Think we will stick to the ferry next time.

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