The Boeing 983
I estimated that the
aircraft should be landing at Heathrow within 15
The flight had been fine
although the no frills nature of
these budget airlines meant forgoing some
luxuries. On the plus side, however, the lack of
food or water helped to avoid problems caused by
the absence of toilet facilities.
I glanced again at the
spartan décor with its weight saving lack of
carpets, fittings and interior panelling. It was
certainly interesting to see the struts of the
airframe and the myriad cables and pipes passing
throughout the fuselage.
A flight attendant
approached. Excuse me sir, can you please
I obliged, and the
attendant released a catch at the base of my seat,
detaching it from the floor.
Please help me carry
this, he continued.
I assisted in manoeuvring
the seat through a door at the rear of the plane,
and we began to descend some steps.
What are we doing?
Were going to
the boiler room, he explained. These
new Boeing 983s are specially designed for budget
airlines. Theyre dual fuel.
Yes, they burn
aviation spirit and wood. There were headwinds
over the Atlantic, and were having to
circle, awaiting landing clearance. Were
almost out of aviation spirit, so the Captain
wants a couple of seats burned just to ensure we
reach the runway.
At the bottom of the stairs
we were met by two stokers in blue overalls who
carried my seat to a boiler. One lifted a sledge
hammer and broke the seat into sections while the
other fed the splintered wood into a glowing
I havent got
anywhere to sit, now, I reminded the flight
Thats been a
problem, he conceded. Its not
so bad for you as well be landing in ten
minutes. Last week the Captain forgot to fill up
with aviation spirit in New York, and we ran out
halfway across the Atlantic. We had to burn most
of the seats, and the passengers had to stand for
a couple of hours. He paused to recall the
incident. We nearly had to use the reserve
Reserve fuel supply?
baggage, he clarified. As youre
here, he continued, changing the subject,
can you help me with a tyre?
He led to where the landing
gear was stowed and prodded a tyre with his thumb.
It was nearly flat when we took off,
he noted, but it was raining, and we
didnt want to get wet pumping it up.
The flight attendant
produced a foot pump and connected it to the
tyres air valve. Would you mind
pumping? he asked. I need to go and
prepare for landing.
I had just completed the
inflation when the undercarriage doors opened
below me and I found myself being lowered with
the landing gear. The wheels touched the runway,
and I was gratified that my tyre appeared to be
at the correct pressure.
The aeroplane taxied to a
halt, and I climbed down to the concrete.
really start to get off the plane until its
landed, advised a baggage handler as I
removed my rucksack from the external luggage
I thanked him for this
valuable piece of travel safety advice and made
my way to passport control.