5 things you never want to hear an airline pilot say

I have been on a lot of flights to a lot of places. Statistically, I suppose, not everything is going to go to plan all the time, but even so I have always got there and back in one piece. Still, I could have done without these announcements from the cockpit.

We’re turning back, there’s not enough thrust in one of the engines
Hang on. Thrust? Who knew we needed thrust? Fuel – yes. Whirring metal bits – yes. Thrust. Now you tell us we need thrust? Nobody mentioned thrust during the in-flight safety briefing.  And if we haven’t got enough thrust to get us home, how have we got enough thrust to get us back where we started from? Basically, we’re running out of power and you thought it would be a good idea to tell us that?
(Algarve, Portugal, to London)

It’s a bit windy, let’s have another go at landing
Fly 900 miles east of Australia, into the vast Pacific Ocean, and coming across the island you were aiming for is a bit of a relief. There’s the tiny pin-prick of land in a huge expanse of wind-lashed water, there are the huddled buildings of the airport, here comes the narrow landing strip – and, oops, there it goes again, as the pilot thinks better of putting wheels on the ground. We’re all buffeted around and before we know it, the plane is right out over the ocean again, and coming around for another go. Made it on the third attempt.
(Sydney to Norfolk Island, Australia)

We’re in a holding stack above Heathrow. We should be all right for fuel
Should be? Should be! We’ve been up here twelve hours already. There can only be a teaspoon of fuel left. This is not helpful information.
(Singapore to London)

There’s something wrong with the wing, the mechanic is coming to look at it
The announcement is made while we’re on the stand, all strapped in and ready to fly. Not good, obviously. Need the wing in tip-top shape I’d have thought. There are various announcements to come, all of a similar nature (‘the mechanic is on his way’ – ‘should be on our way, just as soon as the mechanic comes’ – ‘no really, he is’ etc) until four hours later we are given the all clear. Four hours. On the runway. Not actually flying. At this point, no one cares if the wing is tied on with a bit of string. Just fly the damn plane!
(Amsterdam to Accra, Ghana)

We’ve found a suspicious package on board, we’re diverting to Iran
There is no part of this sentence that is reassuring to the airline passenger. There is also no part of this sentence that should actually be said out loud to the airline passenger. What were they thinking? Did they miss that lesson at Pilot School?

This announcement was followed by the pilot pointing the plane towards the ground and flying down as quickly as possible, with total silence on board. Followed by us being hurried off as fire engines and emergency vehicles (Iranian fire engines and emergency vehicles) ringed the aircraft. Followed by a long wait in line for the one working telephone where all you could hear, as you inched closer to your turn, was the single incredulous word said by whichever relative someone had managed to rouse in the middle of the night – “Tehran?”
(London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, via erm, Iran)

So, any horror stories of your own?

Header image: Good news, bad news by burlington_rc, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Published by Jules Told Me

Hi, I'm Jules – travel blogger & Rough Guides writer – sharing travel-writing tips, travel ideas and amazing places. I hope my journey can inspire your next trip, and I wish you happy travels in fascinating places

4 thoughts on “5 things you never want to hear an airline pilot say

  1. The pilot announced ‘We’re experiencing some mild turbu….” and then the plane dropped freefall for a few seconds and everyone lost their lunch, both literally and metaphorically.

    1. Ouch! Sounds rough. I always like ‘mild turbulence’. Along with ‘it might be a little bumpy’. Look, just tell us- you’re in a tin can! 5 miles up! There’s weather! Do the maths!

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