For a moment, I froze.
I was watching the screen in front of me onboard Kingfisher flight from Chennai to Delhi on the evening of 4th of July. To my horror it indicated that the plane has crossed Delhi and was heading straight towards the Himalayas. “Oh My God, pilots must be sleeping” was my first thought. (The news of Air India Pilots sleeping while flying from Jaipur to Mumbai and heading towards GOA was still fresh in my mind)
Next moment, the screen showed the statistics- Altitude, speed, distance and more. I realized that the aircraft is not at a cruising altitude and speed is pretty low. So it couldn’t be auto pilot. Still, something is wrong…Mount Everest is some 29000 feet in height. Current altitude is too low-Himalaya is nearing-should I storm into the cockpit and pull that lever up? (I love driving remember? An aircraft is no exception. I’ve seen in movies how they pull that lever up just seconds before a possible head-on collision with mountains ahead). That lady told there’s a life jacket beneath the seat, which could be used in case of water evacuation-will it save me if I have to jump on a mountain covered with snow? Why are they not keeping parachutes? Even skiing accessories would have helped…
Nearest emergency exit is 2 rows ahead of me-when should I start initial approach of jumping out? No one else seem to be worried about the impending disaster. May be they’re just not aware. May be I should use the remaining time to make a quick video of me explaining what’s happened and send it to National Geographic-they can use it for their “Seconds before disaster” or “Air crash investigations” programs. Wait-how do I send the video to them? Damn, I don’t have GPRS on my cell-even if I had, not sure if we get signal at this altitude-I should have taken Reliance connection-no air, no water, no land, nowhere to escape, but total network… Unless I send across the video, it will be a futile exercise-it’s likely that my mobile will never be discovered…Wait-what’s that thing which stores all crucial information about aircraft? Yes-black box- maybe I can open the black box and keep my cell phone inside it, so that investigators will understand what happened…
It took 6 minutes to type above lines, but all the above thoughts crossed my mind in less than 6 seconds. Then came the cabin announcement-“Due to congestion in Delhi airport we’ve been asked to circle around and our landing will be delayed-we regret for the inconvenience”
Oops! To yeh baath hain, pehle kyo nahin bataya? My brain immediately shifted gears-From Survival instincts and business continuity to Process optimization.
The screen now showed that the aircraft has now turned right and flying above Meerut. I felt like telling the pilot this-"-“आप फालतू मैं चक्कर काट रहे हो मैं यहाँ उत्तर भारत देखने ही तो आया हूँ आप ज़ारा ऐसा कीजिए, हवाई जहाज़ को झरा नीचे लेके जाइए -दिल्ली का कुतुब मीनार, पार्लीमेंट, लाल किला, आगरा का ताज महल जैसे देखने लायक चीझोन्को आसमान से ही दिखा दीजिए, इन सबको देखने के वास्ते मुझे नीचे उतारकर ट्राफ़िक मैं फसना ना पड़े हाँ, अपुन को मालूम हैं, आप ज़्यादा नीचे नहीं जा सकते, इसी लिए तो मैं १५x आप्टिकल झूम वाला केमेरा जो लाया हूँ दिल्ली, आगरा, जेपुर सब घूम के आराम से नीचे उतरेंगे -तब तक दिल्ली का हवाई अड्डा बिल्कुल खाली हो जाएगा" (Hindi for: Why are you wasting time and fuel unnecessarily circling around? I’ve come all the way to see north India only-why don’t you go to a lesser altitude and show us the places like Kutub Minar, Red fort, parliament and other significant places from air itself? I’ll be happy if you save me from the trouble of having to survive Delhi traffic jam to visit these places. I know you can’t get too close, but that is fine, I’ve a 15x optical zoom camera with me. Let’s see Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Mussoorie, hrishikesh, haridwar from up above and then leisurely land-Absolutely no problem)
Well, unfortunately my dream didn’t come true. Aircraft took half a circle and landed with a 30 min delay.
If this sounds as exaggeration, the Mussoorie express we travelled the same night (4th July) got derailed in Dehradoon station next morning, after we got out. (Some 5 bogies got derailed while the train was being moved to shed from station-there weren’t any passengers inside and no one was hurt-but that was pretty close)
Coming back to Kingfisher, Vijay Mallya has decided to discontinue the legendary Kingfisher Pouches and now they give the pen and earphones loose. That would have saved few rupees per passenger, amounting to few crores every year, but it is a bit disappointing to see that price pressure has led even King of Good times Vijay Mallya to compromise.
Also, all aircrafts give the mandatory demo of how to wear seatbelt and oxygen mask, besides other security measures. In my opinion, they should also give a demo of how to use various accessories and controls in and around the passenger. Lots of first time flyers these days who won’t have an idea as to how to push the seat back, how to turn on the overhead lamp, where to plug in that earphone or how to change channels (No one became frequent flyer without becoming first timer-so we can’t criticize first timers for not knowing things). Usually we don’t want to reveal that we don’t know anything and prefer to struggle with the controls ourselves, instead of asking a fellow passenger or cabin crew. If a demo is given for these activities, it would be really useful.
Also one more serious thought.
Disclaimer: True incidents, narrated with slight exaggeration.
That’s it for now. Sing: Ulalalala ulle-o, Ulalalalla le-o
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