Flight to clarity

Still cruisin'

Still cruisin’

Sometimes life sends you a message to make sure you’re awake.

Last week I was heading away on a customer incentive trip to the Kimberley in far north Western Australia. It’s one of Australia’s most remote locations; far from mobile and internet connections, electricity and the comforts usually associated with corporate travel.

I was looking forward to it; a new place, a new experience: fishing with Barramundi, Queenies, Cod and a variety of other species sharing the waters with crocodiles, sharks and stinging box jellyfish.

Swimming was off the agenda but fishing and trekking to caves with 40,000-year-old Aboriginal cave paintings was the order of the days ahead. Leaving from Melbourne, we had four flights and over twelve hours of travel – further and longer than many overseas destinations.

We made the first flight to Perth and transited to Broome, two and a half hours up the WA coast. From there, we transferred to a Cessna and then we would take a helicopter for the final leg.

The Cessna took off on schedule and save minor buffeting we settled in for the two-hour flight to Mitchell’s Plateau. There was a buzz on board with the boys and making predictable jokes about small planes crashing into crocodile-infested waters.

It was a hot day and forty-five minutes into the flight we were relaxing with the gentle drumming of the engine and the staccato of the blades making us sleepy. This was abruptly disturbed by the shrill of warning alarms and an acrid smell in the cabin, followed shortly by the cabin filling with smoke.

The plane had an electrical fire. The pilot banked sharply and dropped from 6,500 feet to just over 1,000. From the tight bank, I could see the landscape rising quickly. I assumed the pilot was in control but he was looking worried and calling ‘Pan-Pan’ into his headset, the precursor to a mayday.

I looked at my colleague in the next seat and said, ‘We could be in a bit of trouble here’.

The silence on the plane was eerie, no panic, no calling out; just a stunned silence, hoping we were going to make it.

The fire extinguisher was at the back of the cabin so the pilot shut down the electrics to contain the situation. As the plane levelled out, I felt great relief. In the distance I could see a small landing field, one of very few on the journey. The plane roared across the tree-tops, flaps inoperable so we were coming in hot, at more than double the normal landing speed. The pilot kept the revs up and put the plane down hard.

We evacuated rapidly while the pilot hit the console with the extinguisher. We went into a small shed and were told to stay there due to the number of crocodiles in the area. By now the tension had eased and the boys were joking again.

A few minutes later we had police, ambulance, fire brigade and SES roll in under full noise and lights. The paramedics rushed in to find eight blokes drinking coke and looking bewildered, none of us appreciating the seriousness of a fire on a plane.

‘Bugger me; that was close’, said a police officer.

The pilot came in to talk to the police and received a rowdy round of applause from our group of very appreciative passengers.

He had done a great job and we asked him if he was going to take us the rest of the way.

‘No more flying for me today’ was his response, and we settled in for the two-hour wait for a replacement plane from Broome. Thoughts of work were far from our minds and we were relieved to find we still had phone reception and everyone rang home.

Now that’s a business trip that really put our priorities into perspective.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “Flight to clarity”

  1. paulhassing Says:

    Dear WLB2. Damn. Fine. Work! I wish you many more near-death experiences, as they seem bring out your best writing. Please live life to the fullest, so that timid readers like me may bask in the reflection of your glorious adventures. Kind regards, P. 🙂

  2. adamnrave Says:

    Yikes! I’d still be washing my corporate speak out of my undergarments. As my Aunt Graham used to say, that’s a close shave. Phew. So glad you could parlay the experience into such an excellent story. Take care out there, WLBB.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: