A Nautical Nomad

Tuesday 21 September 2021

I append below a posting I did in 2017 as a result of sheer boredom as I waited to see just how the captain would avoid the Hurricane we had been heading into and trying to avoid for several days. Then like now was very near to the anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers in 9/11. The incident I related, happened only a few weeks after 9.11.

12 September 2017

Day 13 of my trip and another sea day as we head on an ever-changing course towards New York. The hurricane has been downgraded to a tropical storm and we are about to enter its actual area of effect. The Captain eventually went back to the original plan of sailing in a southerly direction, thereby skirting the lower edge and we are now on a North-West heading. We should reach New York around 8 Am on Friday and I will be glad to get ashore as it feels as though we have been at sea for ever.

Ok, so as there has been not a lot happening on the ship, I will recount an interesting travel incident going back to 2001 which has relevance to an anniversary just passed, 9/11.Now as you will no doubt remember, September 11, 2001 was when the terrorist attack took place on the twin towers in New York when two planes flew into two of the three buildings which collapsed.

A few weeks after this event I travelled to new York to see a friend, and I remember going to the check in desk at Edinburgh Airport and the young lady asking if I had a seating preference as there was plenty of room on the flight (not surprising after recent events), I said to her “well, if there are any Arabs on the flight I want to sit right behind them,” She gave me one of these reapproving looks and a wry smile.

From that day on I have always taken an aisle seat. So, after a pleasant few days in New York I found myself in Newark Airport waiting for my flight to return to Scotland via Amsterdam, as I had booked through KLM. There was a delay in boarding, which is not that unusual, but once boarded there was further delay and a lack of information as to the cause of the delay.

After about an hour the Captain announced that there would be a further delay and the cause was that during the previous flight a turbine fin had become detached from one of the jet engines and they would have it replaced and we would get on our way.

Now I am anything but an engineer but I do now the basics of how a jet engine works, to the extent that one of the functions of the turbine fins is to cool the engine, and this happens by drawing cold air through the engine. Therefore, if a fin had become detached then it had probably went straight through the engine cavity, quite possibly causing other damage, making the repair something other than a quick fix and certainly not a repair that should be completed and then tested in the air with over three hundred people on board.

I called over, a flight attendant and asked to speak to her superior as I was not happy with what I had just heard. She of course tried to reassure me but under pressure agreed to get the chief steward. Eventually, he arrived and in a very squeaky voice, enquired as to what the problem was. I told him that I was off the opinion that we should be allowed to disembark whilst this repair was carried out and the plane properly tested before allowing passengers to re-board. He was of course insistent that there was no problem. I insisted on speaking to someone in a managerial position as I was not happy with the situation.

Eventually after much debate he went off to consult someone else from Northwest airlines which was the partner airline to KLM, whose plane we were on. By this time, we had been on the plane for over two hours and people were becoming very annoyed and many of them were making their dissatisfaction known to the staff. After some time, the Stewart returned to say that someone from Northwest would speak to me but it would take some time for him to get there. So, we waited and waited.

After about another hour they decided to serve a meal. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that they provided us with stainless steel cutlery. Yes, only a few weeks after 9/11 here was an airline handing out knifes on an airplane, a few miles from where it had all happened. They were in effect handing out “do it yourself hi-jacker kits” The attackers at 9/11 had used craft knifes to kill the crew.

I again called for the chief Stewart and enquired as to whether this was part of some weird reality television show and insisted that he expedite the appearance of the airline representative. Meanwhile I took photos of the staff handing out the “do it yourself hi-jacker kits” being careful to remove the photo card in the camera and replace it with another one.

Eventually, and after we had been on the plane for about 4 hours the Stewart came along and told me to come to the front of the plane where someone would talk to me. I had of course appraised some of the people near where I was sitting of the situation and there was a lot of concern at how things were being handed.

My concern was that there was the possibility that I might have ended up spending more time in New York than I had planned. So I was taken to the front of the plane along the gangway where there was a guy who introduced himself as the New York manager of Northwest Airlines who looked rather annoyed.

Quite brusquely he said “I believe you have a problem” “ I believe it is you who have the problem , in fact you seem to have two problem’s” I said “ firstly you are carrying out fairly major repairs on a plane filled with passengers with the intention of testing it in mid-air with the passengers on it and secondly you have just issued everyone on the plane with do it yourself hi-jacker kits, so who has the problem”?

There followed a rather ill-tempered exchange with both of us using some pretty straight forward language and him demanding that I hand over the photos I took of the staff handing out the offending articles. I refused.

I explained that he should allow the people to disembark and wait in comfort while the repair was carried out and then test run the engines before allowing the people back on again, meanwhile taking the opportunity to get rid of the planes stock of weapons which they had been freely handing out.

At one point he said “ well ,if you are not happy, you can leave the flight but you will be responsible for making your own arrangements to get back to the UK “ my response was, “I have a better idea , why don’t you go and F**k yourself because the only way I am leaving this plane is with everyone else while you get it properly repaired and tested”

At that point I was pretty sure that he would have me arrested to get rid of the problem but just at that point there was a commotion behind us at the doorway to the plane and the chief Stewart whose squeaky voice has gone up a few octaves seemed to be trying to stave off a lynching, which he seemed to be object of.

A number of people had come down to the front of the plane to find out what was happening and I discovered later that what had precipitated it was an answer to a query by one of them as to where I was, the attendant commenting that she thought I wouldn’t be coming back.

So, a look of complete panic came over the managers face when he saw that things were not quite going to plan and in fact the good old American Cavalry had arrived. It did not help when I looked at him and with as straight a face as I could, said, “ok your move”

He asked if I would get them to go back to their seats whilst he considered the situation and would make an announcement very soon. I went back in to the plane got them to settle down and after about 10 minutes the pilot announced that they would disembark whilst they completed the repair on the engine whereupon they would take the plane away for testing and only when they were absolutely sure everything was ok would they re-board the plane.

We disembarked and went into the departure lounge. We could look out on the plane where it became apparent why they did not want us to see what was happening because they had a scaffold up to and surrounding the engine and there was a squad of men busily working inside the engine.

After the repair was completed they took the plane away and presumably ran up the engines to test them before allowing us to re-board. On the flight, we had plastic cutlery with our meal. As you can see, a rather bored Captain Pugwash, heading for the Big Apple.

And a rather bored Captain Pugwash bobbing up and down near the entrance to the harbor at Victoria on Gozo Malta. Packing mostly done and looking forward to a 4 o’clock rise tomorrow to be transported to the Airport on mainland Malta and a long day ahead.

It has been a good trip although restricted somewhat by necessary precautions. Viking cruises, would I do another one ? Yes I think I would, and tomorrow I am heading back to the best wee country on the planet



Author: bobsblog.scot

I have been in business for well over half a century but I learn something new every day. My politics are the middle of the road. I believe that the far-right and far-left are equally harmful. Jim Murphy ( at that time, leader of the Scottish Labour party) asked me if I called myself a socialist. I said, "no Jim, I am not a socialist, I am a capitalist, but a capitalist with a social conscience.

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