Steve Carter was excited to be working for the new budget airline. All those years of study and tests had really paid off. So why shouldn’t he have celebrated with a few drinks and some partying? All he needed was a relaxing shower, some black coffee, a couple of aspirin, and he’d be fine. Still, he was regretting not getting to bed at a reasonable time; sleeping through the alarm call was stressing him out. He needed to relax. Maybe just a ‘hair of the dog’ to settle his nerves, he thought; that last can of lager was still in the fridge, shame to waste it…The drive to work was just as stressful. There was more traffic than he expected, and when he did eventually get onto the dual carriageway he had to break the speed limit several times to make it on time. But now he was actually in the cockpit, running through the pre-flight safety checks:
- Aircraft registration, certification, and related paperwork up to date – check!
- Ignition switch in off position – check!
- Turn on master power switch – check!
- Check fuel gauges – check!
- Listen to sounds of equipment powering on. Radio cooling fans, instrument gyros, and all other equipment. No unusual sounds – check!
- Landing flaps and gear lock down leavers all functioning normally – check!
Everything seemed good to go. A nod from his co-pilot confirmed it. This is it then Stevie boy, he thought, let’s do it…
“This is your Captain speaking,” Steve began, “I just want to welcome you all aboard UK Air 247. We are now cruising at an altitude of thirty thousand feet. I hope you all have a pleasant flight.”
The next half hour went smoothly. The take-off had gone like a breeze, what could go wrong?
“Reports of turbulence ahead.” The co-pilot said. Steve didn’t want to hear that, his head was still throbbing, and having to concentrate wasn’t helping…
“Prepare for lift to thirty five thousand feet, that should take us above it. I’ll get confirmation from Air Traffic Control” Steve replied. The plane wasn’t responding though. In fact, they were struggling to maintain their present altitude. The cockpit was beginning to rock from side to side as the aircraft entered the turbulence.
“It’s worse than we were told. This is severe turbulence.” Steve was saying before they were interrupted by a knock on the dividing door between them and the passengers. A voice asked if everything was okay, and suggesting that the passengers would appreciate a word of reassurance from the flight crew when they had a chance.
“Not now!” Steve snapped back. The co-pilot and stewardess exchanged concerned glances that didn’t go unnoticed by Steve…
“I’m sorry,” Steve said hastily, “could you just go and tell them we’re experiencing some bad weather and we’ll be through it shortly, thanks.” The stewardess nodded and closed the door behind her. Steve was finally getting the plane to increase in altitude, and was feeling more relaxed. It wasn’t to last. A moment later a blinding flash shot across the front window, followed by a sharp jolt to the cockpit and what sounded like a small explosion and the sound of thunder following the lightning.
“Captain!” The co-pilot shouted. “Fire on one of the left engines. That lightning bolt must have caught us.”
Shit shit shit, was all Steve could think, why now, why today when there was enough thunder going on in his head? He had to think, how to respond, what to do?
“The controls are barely responding, we need to make an emergency landing, and soon!”
The stewardess came back in and made another appeal for reassurance from the flight crew. Steve didn’t have time that, telling her to do her job and give the assurances herself.
“Captain Steve Carter of UK Air 247, requesting clearance for an emergency landing. Over?” He said over the radio.
“This is Air Traffic Control, state your emergency and flight status. Over?”
“We’ve been hit by lightning on the left starboard engine. Flight controls failing to respond, and losing altitude. Requesting emergency landing guidance.”
The temperature inside the cockpit was rising. Steve and his co-pilot were sweating, but Steve more so. The damage to the engine and the controls must have affected the cooling circuits. That in itself wasn’t too much to worry about, but it raised the danger of a complete electrical short-circuit.
“Air Traffic Control to UK Air 247, please respond?”
“UK Air 247 here, pass your message control.”
“We’re sending a revised flight plan now, stand by.”
Steve was directed to land the plane at a nearby airport several miles ahead. Steve and his co-pilot prepared for their descent and landing…
“Aircraft lined up with runway. Check.” The co-pilot confirmed.
Steve pulled back the throttle, less than a quarter inch, being careful to keep their airspeed within the green safety arc. The nose of the aircraft began to dip slightly, but Steve found himself having to constantly pull and push on the yoke to keep the aircraft steady. He could see the look of concern on his co-pilot’s face, who was remaining conspicuously quiet. Despite his best efforts, the cockpit was rocking from side to side and their descent was much too fast. Once again the nose began to dip, but this time much too quickly and too much. They were too low. Some power lines loomed ahead of them in the distance. Steve tried to pull the aircraft up, but… Too late! The landing gear caught the top of them, and again the nose of the aircraft started to dip even more, just before going into a headlong dive…
Steve, the crew, and the fifty seven passengers never had a chance….
“Well, that was pretty dire wasn’t it?” The chief flight instructor began, “had that been a real aircraft you were flying instead of one our latest advanced simulators then you, your flight crew, and all the passengers would now be dead!” Steve started to try and say something but was cut short… “I would suggest you try bus driving but they don’t particularly like their drivers with a hangover or half pissed either. Now get out!”