Thursday, 1 July 2010

Reminders of mortality

I went back to the UK for any few days at the end of last week and flew back from Bristol on Sunday evening. The journey had gone well apart from a nasty incident in the departure lounge at Bristol Airport where I watched 11 English football players commit ritual suicide.

It had just got dark when we started the descent into Budapest, and, as I always like to do, I was looking out the window trying to spot familiar landmarks as the ground got closer and closer. We were just a few hundred feet above the rooftops when suddenly the engines started to roar and the nose tipped up again. We were going up again and banking sharply to the left.

I looked out of the window and could see that we were just passing over the runway that we had been aiming for and was horrified to see that there was an aircraft on it. It looked as if our pilot had seen this aircraft, perhaps enter the runway, and had decided to abort the landing.

As our plane continued its steep climb and turn I could see the lights of the city streets out through the opposite window and for a few seconds I really thought that we were going to crash. The plane was vibrating badly with the stresses of the manoeuver and this seemed to go on for an eternity, perhaps 10 seconds, before we stabilised and things grew calm again.

Surprisingly there was very little reaction amongst the passengers, but I think that most people, unable to look out of the windows, had not realised just how close we had been to the ground before having to climb again. The captain came on the PA and calmly announced that they had decided to go round for a second time before landing. Nothing about near misses.

Flying is statistically the safest form of travel, apparently, but I do wonder whether the odds shorten with each flight?

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