Friday, July 25, 2008

Things that never happen

Everybody knows that certain theoretically-imaginable events simply never occur in reality. In modern computer-oriented jargon, they might be described as nightmares of a purely virtual nature. Often, in the middle of a long flight, I've wondered—while standing up in the toilets, say, and calmly peeing—how events might unfold if the floor were to give way. Other passengers might complain that somebody's spending a hell of a long time in the toilets, but it's possible that I wouldn't be seriously missed until the plane touched down. And then the experts would start trying to determine the place where I might have fallen. Finally, the investigating committee would announce solemnly that I had simply disappeared down a hole in the toilets, and that my body was no doubt lost forever. A jet set disappearance. In fact, when you think about it, not such a bad way to die.

On flights between Europe and Australia, I've always preferred to travel with Qantas, because Australia's national Flying Kangaroo airline has always had an excellent reputation. I liked the style of their personnel, who seemed to care genuinely about the comfort and well-being of their passengers. I'll never forget the case of a Qantas cabin steward, long ago, who took pleasure in describing, over the aircraft's audio system, the various places in the Australian wilderness over which we were flying. It was like being driven along in a tourist coach with a competent guide.

In any case, concerning my archaic anguish about falling through the bottom of the plane, everybody knows that such things do not happen, neither on Qantas aircraft nor anywhere else.

Correction! Unlikely events of this kind can in fact happen from time to time... such as this morning, over the Philippines, when a hole suddenly appeared in the right wing fuselage of a Qantas Boeing 747 carrying 350 passengers and 19 crew members. The aircraft nosedived through an altitude gap of some six kilometers, with everybody aboard breathing through oxygen masks, before landing safely at Manila. Although many were scared, nobody was hurt.

As I said, Qantas is a great airline, and nothing bad can ever happen to passengers in the cozy warm pouch of the flying kangaroo. Well, almost nothing...

BREAKING NEWS [no pun intended]:

A short well-written article on the BBC News website [display] reveals that the presence of corrosion had been detected in this 17-year-old aircraft back in February. A Qantas spokeswoman reacted by saying: "There was nothing out of the ordinary in these checks." There are, of course, several different kinds of hypotheses concerning the sudden appearance of a gaping hole in such a position of the fuselage... which, incidentally, may have resulted in passenger luggage falling to earth like bombs of a novel kind. An interesting feature of the above-mentioned BBC site is that they've set up a reader-feedback device designed to receive testimony from passengers aboard the Boeing with a hole in its belly. I hope, though, that the website management verifies the authenticity of input, otherwise we're likely to find tales from imaginary travelers on that ill-fated flight.

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