Those of you frequently reading this blog, know I am a frequent traveller. There were times, I averaged 40 flights a month. That is why I frequently post stuff about planes, airports and air travel in general...
As an aidworker, I often fly "bush planes", "special charters", or at least fly in areas where ummm... air travel might not be as strictly controlled as it should be. I gave some examples in The Road's short story "Italians, the art of flying and the laws of probability".
However, this story, beats all odds:
Back in November last year, a brand new Airbus A340-600 from Etihad left the Airbus factory hanger in Toulouse, France. It had never flown before, and was being tested by its crew, who were to pick up the plane for its final testing. According to a friend, here is what happened:
The crew of nine taxied out to the run-up area. They took all four engines to takeoff power with a virtually an empty aircraft. This was their first mistake as they obviously didn't read the run-up manuals and had no clue just how light an empty Airbus really is.
No chocks were set, not that it would have mattered at that power setting. Even the brakes would not hold at full power.
As it turns out, the takeoff warning horn was blaring away in the cockpit because the aircraft computers thought they were trying to takeoff but the flaps, slats etc.. had not been configured properly.
Then one of the crew decided to pull the 'Ground Sense' circuit breaker to silence the alarms. This fooled the aircraft into thinking it was in the air. That was the crew's last mistake: as soon as they did that, the computers automatically released all the brakes and set the aircraft rocketing forward. There was no time to stop and no one smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power setting. So the rest is as you see it below: the plane, still with zero airmiles on its counter, propelled onto a concrete wall, and broke into pieces.
I can not imagine how the telephone call from the pilot to his boss must have sounded like: "Eh, boss, remember the new A340 we were supposed to pick up from the factory? Eh.. do you think we could get another one?"
It really makes me wonder if flying is a science, a craft or an art!