The Textbook Mechanic

May 24, 2010

in Airplane Stories

I get to fly a lot on different chartered flights for work, sometimes these are ok because of the service. But all in all they generally suck. Its one of the things you learn to expect when the lowest bidding contractor wins hands down, and the person booking the tickets never has to take the trip.

A crew of Russians (flying what appeared to be something that Stalin used to go to the coast in during the summer) was lucky enough to get one of these contracts. The flight was going from Kuwait City Airport to none other than Baghdad, Iraq. Things seemed good to go when the flight first took off, a little rough on the take off; but hey… I never really worried about that part of the flight all that much.

So off we were into the wild wild east known as Iraq. I had served there before, and I knew about what type of things happen there. But there was no need for me to worry at all. I was supposed to be going from one peaceful country to a secured airport. I had a window seat with the tunes cranking out at 10,000 feet above the world. I had enough leg room to raise a family in front of me. Needless to say I was extremely comfortable being the only person in that particular aisle.

About 10 minutes into the flight, I see one of the crew members running up and down the aisle with a book in one hand and a Leatherman in the other. Personally I wasn’t too concerned about the Leatherman; what seemed to catch my attention was he was looking at the ceiling panels of the plane. And then at 10,000 feet above the earth, he found what he was looking for. He removed the panel and started pulling wires, then cutting and splicing away. I was starting to be a little concerned about this. I mean we were 10,000 feet above where people cut off infidel’s heads and broadcast it on Al Jazeera News, and I’m not fucking Superman so I can’t fly, and damn near failed physics class, so I know I can’t fix a plane. From the looks of things neither could this guy. I turned off my music and asked him if everything was ok. He replied back to me in an extremely heavy eastern Russian block accent “We do this a lot, no problem.”

Just as I start to think to myself, “I guess we’re ok, after-all we were still flying,” the Captain of the plane makes an announcement “Good morning everyone, we will be making an unexpected stop due to mechanical issues.” My next thought was something like, “What the fuck am I into now?”

And then plane began its decent to somewhere between civilization with torture and explosives in sand. As I looked around everyone seemed to display the same look of fear and terror that I probably was. Including our “Textbook Mechanic,” who was still cutting and splicing as the plane was attempting to land. By this time I had already put my mp3 player in my bag and grabbed my cash, passport, smokes and lighter. I wasn’t sure if I would need to buy my way out of any of the infinite unknown possibilities ahead.

We landed at what appeared to be an abandoned runway with a building with a brick wall coming off it. Nothing around, no army or police. Just us, Stalin’s plane and the sand. As we waited for the Textbook Mechanic to fix the plane, a military looking beige truck drove up. Some extremely upset Iraqi security or police force got out and started shouting at the flight crew while holding their loaded AK47s at the ready. After 3 minutes or what seemed like a surreal eternity of everyone yelling and pointing the Iraqis got in their truck and drove away. I’m not sure whether it was for the better or the worse.

We waited on that air strip for about 1 hour for our Textbook Mechanic to become a graduate of the Aeronautical Maintenance Do It Your Self Academy. I felt safe waiting in the corner formed by the brick wall and the building. I almost hoped that a truck load of insurgents would come and slaughter the crew doing the repairs with the other personnel that were wandering around the plane in awe of its decrepit fuselage. I would have had the perfect view where I knew no one could see me.

Finally the plane engines started to sputter and we all were quite pleased. Immediately following the sputtering engine our fearless Textbook Mechanic stuck his head out the doorway of Stalin’s plane and yelled “please hurry it will be dangerous here soon.” Needless to say we all rushed into the plane like a pack of rabid dogs chasing a kitten.

Once boarding of the plane was complete in probably what was world record time, there was no announcement on how to buckle a seat belt or where an oxygen bag would fall from. The door closed and the plane began to approach the runway for take off. And then in no time and after a few prayers (there had to be a few because I’m a just a god damn heathen and I even said an Oh father…), we were back to 10,000 feet again, getting back on track to go to Baghdad.

– George

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris May 25, 2010 at 5:04 am

Holy crap… that really IS a flight from hell!


TheBigM May 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

Agreed, best one in a long time!


Clare May 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Not only a true flight from hell, but with that crew, it would almost have been safer to stay on the ground in Iraq.


Laura May 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Oy vey. Fortunately it seems you lived to tell the tale.


MM May 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

Yeah, seems like it. 😛


HaS June 29, 2014 at 6:18 pm

That is insane!


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