Monday, October 08, 2007

i survived a plane crash yesterday

The following is a true story. Events are as I remember them. Times are approximate. Names have not been used to protect the innocent.

A SAS Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737-700, the type of airplane involved in the incident described below. In fact, there's a very good chance this was the exact airplane. Note the winglet at the end of the main wing. Photo by Knut Lövstuhagen and downloaded off the SAS website.

On the tarmac at Bergen's Flesland Airport
Wednesday, October 7, 2007


Captain, in a dry, monotone voice: "Ummm ... welcome aboard SAS Scandinavian Airlines Flight 274 with service to Oslo. This is your captain speaking ... I'd like to apologize for the late start this afternoon ... but we'll be on our way just a few minutes. Ummm ... flying time to Oslo will be 40 minutes ... and we expect a very smooth flight once we get above clouds. The first officer will be at the controls today ... you'll hear more from him later when we get closer to our destination. Thank you."

2 seconds later
(Plane backs up from the gate and stops. Flight attendants begin performing safety demonstration in Norwegian).

10 seconds after that
(From the seat pocket in front of me, I pick up a copy of SAS's well-written but unfortunately named in-flight magazine, Scanorama, and start to mindlessly thumb through the pages).

Maybe 60 seconds later
(Flight attendants finish safety demonstration. The plane's engines fire up and hum).

8 seconds later
(The plane starts to accelerate and begins a sweeping right turn).

5 seconds later
(Plane suddenly jolts on its shocks and a loud, metal-scratching sound is heard. A verbalization: "CRASH!!" Well, actually, it feels and sounds less like a crash and more like someone drove over a really big curb. Or maybe a pothole. Puzzled passengers look at one another and the cabin fills with a surprised, Norwegian murmur. I don't understand Norwegian, but it takes the universal tone of WTF?!!)

7 seconds after that
(Plane slows to a complete stop).

1 second later
(Absolute silence from the flight deck).

10 seconds after that
(Plane's engines start to fire up again, plane starts to move forward).

Captain, in a sheepish, monotone voice: "Ummm, I'm very, very sorry ... it seems we've had a bit of an accident ... looks like one of the winglets on this aircraft clipped the wing of another plane parked on the runway ... ummm, obviously this flight is cancelled ... we'll taxi back to the gate and we'll provide you with more information in a moment. Again, I apologize - I am terribly sorry."

2 seconds later
Middle-aged Norwegian lady sitting next to me: "Oh, I feel so sorry for the first officer - he's never going to make Captain now."

1 second after that
(I laugh out loud).

Back inside Flesland Airport at the SAS "Arrival Service" desk
Reason scribbled on my complementary SAS meal and hotel voucher as to why I missed my flight: "technical difficulties."

I found out later that the Boeing 737-700 aircraft we were travelling on was just three weeks old and only one of three 700 series 737's in the entire SAS fleet. One of the key defining features of a 737-700 ... it has winglets ... winglets that apparently don't fit underneath the wings of older model 737's. Five thoughts:

1. That's the first plane crash I've ever been in!
2. No matter what Boeing says, 737's do not have a tight turning circle.
3. When they tell you to have your seatbelt fastened while seated - fasten your seatbelt.
4. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; other times, truth is just hilarious.
5. My Norway trip was so spectacular, I guess it was only appropriate that it got extended for another night.

This has been Felix reporting for starfish and waffles. Please stay tuned, more Norway updates to come.

My smoky, non-smoking room at the Thon Hotel Bergen Airport, complements of SAS.

Bergen's Flesland Airport at 5:30am, before the first flight of the day.

Bergen Airport Bar: hey, it's never too early for a drink!

Sunrise view from my (upgraded to business class!) window on the flight "home" to Copenhagen.


  1. That wasn't a crash by any standard. It was a brush. Flight 274 probably lost a winglet. The other party could have suffered a far more serious gush. That looked like a 4 stars complimentary accommodation, courtesy of SAS. That was quite an experience. It is a blessing that you got back to Lund's in one piece just in time for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Just can't say the same for the poor turkey though. Are there wild turkeys in the wood in Sweden?

  2. I had to chuckle at the lady's comment about the 1st officer too. I hope that this will be your last plane crash experience.

  3. Because you are safe and no one was hurt, I can say this was a truly entertaining tale. BTW, was the editor with you?

  4. Zhu ... we had our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner tonight. But it was chicken not turkey - turkey is exorbitantly expensive in Sweden. The hotel room SAS put me up in was ok but nothing special.

    Michelle ... I hope so too - next time, I might not be so lucky and the editor will have to recruit new writers for starfish and waffles!

    -c ... That's just it, because nobody got hurt, everything's pretty hilarious and I can laugh about it. I wonder what happened to the First Officer, though. To answer your question, no, the editor wasn't with me, he had some important business to attend to at our European headquarters.

  5. I always love your posts. You tell such great stories... and that last picture. I love it.