Sunday, July 20, 2014

Berowne's 229


(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!” 

23 comments:

retriever said...

Interesting post greeting from Belgium

Donetta Sifford said...

I'm glad you weren't a victim of fire, although I'm sure rope burn had to sting pretty bad. More than rope burn, actually, with blood. I take it your camera came to no harm.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, what a scary adventure! I'm glad you're okay.

Last time I flew, I sat near the door, so I had to promise to help people evacuate should the need arise. I'm glad the need did not arise!

Arushi Ahuja said...

it sounds funny the way you write it... but i know airplane fires to be extremely dangerous and unforgiving!!

Karen S. said...

Oh my gosh, fire on a plane not good. I enjoy reading about bits and pieces from your life, (very vivid and exciting) and this was quite the post!

Roger Owen Green said...

That would have happened to me too - bleeding...

Mama Zen said...

That is so scary!

Ginny Brannan said...

As I look at the broken blister in the crook between my thumb and forefinger from raking, that I keep seeming to catch on everything and wonder how it is going to heal, I can truly sympathize with your rope cut/burn! That was truly some adventure!

Kutamun said...

It sounds an impressive egress ... And everyone walked away !!

Anita said...

Oh! That was some (mis)adventure...
Best wishes to you for future safe-travel...

ellen b said...

Sorry about your hand but you tell a very good story! It really is amazing how far flying has come and yet how unsafe it still is in other ways.

Hildred said...

My husband, a Lancaster pilot during World War 2, used to tell a story to wide-eyed grandchildren about their mission over Europe when first one, and then another engine caught fire. And no rope to slide down..... they managed to extinguish the fires by doing something magical with the engines, which I never understood, and got back to a rescue airdrome safely.

Sheilagh Lee said...

Thank you for sharing this what an interesting true life tale.

Berowne said...

Ellen B: "Sorry about your hand but you tell a very good story!"
Thanks so much for your much-appreciated comment.

Leslie: said...

OMG! I'm just glad everyone got off and you only hurt your hand - assuming you saved the camera! What a life you've led...what do you do for fun nowadays? lol

leslie
abcw team

Berowne said...

Take naps. :-)

Eddie Bluelights said...

What a scary story.
Glad both you and the camera got out ok - plus the others of course.
I know exactly the rope/canvass tube system. Same at our boarding school when we had a fire drill from third story.
Quite dangerous flying in those days - never be allowed now . . . . :)

Trubes said...

Hello Mr Berowne, what a frightening story, I think I may have been pleased to be first off to avoid the rush and ensuing panic. I'm glad you lived to tell the tale.
In the time I was applauding the Beatles, we went on a trip to Austria.
Our mode of transport was a DC4, an old WW2 relic that has been refurbished as a passenger plane.
It was like riding on a roller coaster ride in the fun fair.
I'm pleased to say I've flown many times since but it took me twenty years before I stepped back on a plane!
I've just been reading through your blog and enjoyed what I read, so I shall come back for a further read.
Best wishes,
Di.x

Gattina said...

My goodness what an awful adventure !
Gattina
ABC Team

Tanya Breese said...

oh my gosh, how scary!

Lmkazmierczak said...

Wow...what an experience...glad times have changed♪ http://lauriekazmierczak.com/bumblebee-5/

SilverGardenia said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

Berowne said...

And my thanks to all of you for such encouraging comments...

 
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