Loss Of Fluid Nearly Leads To Loss Of Life

May 13, 2009

in Airplane Stories

In the summer of 1977 I went to Norway with my parents to visit my father’s family. At the tender age of almost 7 I had already made this same trip 3 other times in my life, and I thought flying was fun.

The trip to Norway was nothing to brag about, with TWA successfully sending our biggest suitcase to Switzerland for a couple extra days of sightseeing, before re-routing it back to us in Norway. This was an annoyance, but certainly not the end of the world.

A month later we were ready to head home to the US. Our first flight from Oslo to Copenhagen was completely normal. The afternoon flight from Copenhagen was to stop quickly in Shannon Ireland for a pilot change, before continuing on to New York. About 10 minutes into the flight, the pilot comes on to tell us that he have lost essentially all of our hydraulic fluid and will need to return to Copenhagen.

At this point in time we start circling Copenhagen over the water. They dump fuel and hand out a pillow to everyone on the plane. We are then instructed with the procedures of how to deal with a crash landing. “Put your head between your knees on the pillow” etc.

The pilots are busy literally cranking down the landing gear by hand up front. Every passenger on the plane is ghostly white, and here I am a 6 year old thinking this is the greatest adventure of my life. Finally, after an hour in the air, we land on a runway that is completely surrounded by emergency vehicles of every type. They had simply assumed we were crashing and were there with the foam and ambulances to clean up the mess.

We get towed back to our gate for repairs. Unfortunately, TWA elected not to let us out of the airplane. So here we have 150 people sitting in a no good airplane in 95 degree heat with nowhere to go for over 4 hours.

By the time the plane was repaired I was asleep. Too much excitement for a little guy. My parents tell me that we finally took off and made our way to Ireland. There we got to make exactly the same type of landing because the maintenance people in Copenhagen did not fix the problem correctly.

Thankfully passengers were allowed to leave the plane in Shannon. (I continued sleeping on the plane). We switched pilots in Shannon, and the new pilot made it clear he would not fly the plane without the problem being fixed.

The remainder of the flight was just fine, but I will never forget the day when I thought TWA was going to kill me. It took me 21 years to get on another plane owned by TWA.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Roto13 May 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm

That's insane. Sending a plane up like that, twice.


Anonymous May 23, 2009 at 7:00 am

Roto13: to be fair to the pilots, they probably had no way of knowing the problem wasn't actually fixed. I don't know what kind of aircraft was involved here, but I can think of a number of ways a hydraulic system could have failed that would be masked by a loss of fluid. I do find it hard to believe the mechanics in Copenhagen wouldn't have put the aircraft on jacks and at least swung the gear to ensure their "fix" was working, however.


Nacho May 26, 2009 at 4:42 am

@Anonymous: I think Roto13 was referring to the technicians and not the pilots. I completely agree — to send a plane like that back up without being sure that the problem was resolved is irresponsible at best!


Demotage September 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Thats Sucks. A FFH. except that you enjoyed it. Good for you!


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: