(also for three word wednesday and abc wednesday; "b" is for berowne's adventures)
No quiz this week. Folks have been generous and liberal enough to show interest in my occasional personal history notes, so here’s another chapter in...
Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures!
Ah, those were the days.
Air travel was different, to say the least, in the days of pre-jet flight.
If you ever traveled in a 4-engine piston airliner in that era, you know all about its vibration and noise during a 12-hour flight. You know about the jolly bouncing around you got in your seat because a prop plane couldn’t fly above the weather.
And perhaps you know that those magnificent piston engines had a small problem folks didn’t like to talk about too much. They caught fire on takeoff.
Not every time, you understand, just once in a while.
Like when I was on board.
One summer day I was heading out to California and I was excited to be making the very first non-stop flight from La Guardia to Los Angeles. (Previously, you had to make a stop in Chicago.)
There was no such thing as jet flight for passengers.
I had purchased an expensive home movie camera for the occasion. It was magnificent, complete with a three-lens turret. I was very proud of that li’l apparatus.
The takeoff seemed uneventful, except that of a sudden the plane appeared to be coming to a stop. One of the engines was on fire. The cockpit door opened and the pilot came into our area. In an elaborately calm voice, he said: “We’re going to get everyone off this airplane about now.”
The fact that he was making such an effort to be calm somehow made it more alarming. (Though I suppose it wouldn’t have been better if he had shouted something profane to the passengers, and added “We’re on fire!”)
He pointed at me and said, “You – go down the rope.”
Here I should pause to explain the emergency system for that particular aircraft. Today evacuation slides are impressive, beautifully made and highly effective. Well, in those days for that airline company such a slide seemed to be a sort of afterthought.
It consisted of just a large-area canvas like a tarpaulin that you tossed out and it hung there like a wet dishrag. A heroic volunteer among the passengers had to go down a rope hand over hand and then stretch the canvas out so it could be a slide.
Since I was seated closest to him, the pilot volunteered me to go down the rope. I wanted to point out that I was holding in my right hand an expensive movie camera, so hand over hand would be sort of out of the question, but what with the plane on fire I figured this was no time to be quarrelsome or for lengthy discussion.
I took the rope in my left hand and went whoosh! down to the tarmac in about one second. I checked my hand; the skin was shredded and it was bleeding. I carefully put down my camera out of harm’s way and stretched out the canvas. It worked fine; folks began zipping down. Everyone got off with no problems.
I went to a clinic there and they bandaged my hand up good, even gave me a sling, which I thought was overdoing it a little. Everyone waiting in the La Guardia airport knew that a flight had caught fire on takeoff and they were all buzzing about it. They turned to stare at me as I, heavily bandaged, strolled in.
I felt that maybe I should just gather everyone around and say, “I’m not a poor victim of the airplane fire. I’ve just been sliding down a rope!”