Friday, 25 April 2014
Having never flown before, Carol is quite nervous about her first trip abroad. She is both nervous and excitable as she skips about the departure lounge, every new thing a delight, as she buys duty-frees and an assortment of handy travel gadgets she will never use. It doesn’t help that she has already had three cappuccinos, all of them ‘leaded’. Wobbly coffee, she has decided, is the drink of the discerning traveller.
Soon it is time to board and Carol is even excited by the travellators and the telescopic access ramps. She positively giggles inside as the cabin crew welcome her aboard like a well-loved friend and she is delighted to take her window seat with a good view just over the leading edge of the starboard wing. Even better, the seat next to her is taken by an attractive young American; how exotic! As the plane fills up they introduce themselves and begin the chit-chat of becoming acquainted.
And then the sheer, delicious terror of take-off; Carol grips the arm rests as they accelerate, rotate and climb into the sky. Her newly-made friend smiles encouragement and as they level off and the seat belts sign is extinguished he summons a stewardess to get them both a drink. For the next couple of hours they relax as the flight carries on smoothly at 33,000 feet over the Atlantic. Brad is an attentive companion and keeps up the small talk as he maintains a steady flow of beverages. After a while their talk turns flirtatious.
But suddenly they are interrupted by the “bong-bong” of the Tannoy. The seat belt signs illuminate and stewardesses hurry to secure the serving trolleys as the Captain calmly requests that everybody take their seats and buckle up. Clipping into her belt, Carol immediately sees the problem. From her window seat she can see smoke bellowing from one of the starboard engines and as she takes Brad’s hand the Captain comes on to explain that although there is a problem with one of the engines, the aircraft has three more and there is no need to worry.
A few moments later, however, the whole fuselage shakes as a loud boom heralds the sudden failure of a second engine. From across the cabin, Carol can see flames flickering through a port side window. She holds onto Brad for reassurance. This time the Captain’s voice is less even as he explains their predicament. They cannot maintain height now and they are too far from land to attempt to find an emergency landing strip. There is going to be no alternative but to bring her down mid-Atlantic.
The cabin crew pass among the passengers, pointing out the cards which explain the procedure for ditching at sea. The loss of altitude is obvious now and the airliner hurtles towards the ocean through a region of turbulent air. As the oxygen masks drop into reach the Chief Steward is repeating the instructions for donning lifejackets, adopting the brace position and preparing for evacuation into the inflatable life rafts. Carol clings to Brad, fearing this may be the end.
But that's not important right now!
Sensing there are only minutes remaining she looks into his eyes and implores, “Brad, before we die, make me feel like a woman one last time?” Brad frees himself from her tight embrace, unclips his seatbelt and whips off his shirt. “Okay” he says, “Here – iron this.”