Reed in Asia
Landing in another world - Thailand / Siam
After take off from Manchester, the cabin crew quickly came to take my order for a meal and drinks, having had a couple of drinks already at Manchester, I was now getting well into the swing of things, so I ordered a beer and a straight cognac chaser, I didn't have to pay anything anyway because all drinks are included in the price of the ticket and it was going to be a long flight, so I thought that I would make the most of it. This was the first time that I had flown in a Boeing 747 (Jumbo) and having worked on aircraft for a long time myself, I was quite interested in looking around, so after my first beer and a sip of cognac I went for a walk around, I started in the toilet, because I had to relieve myself by then anyway, then I went downstairs and had a look around the economy and first class cabins. As I was walking back up the stairs to my seat, I met a stewardess at the top of the stairs and she asked me if everything was alright and my character at that time (when I was still interested in life) was such that I liked to joke a lot, so I put on a serious face and I replied to her that everything was not alright and then went to my seat and sat down, the girl followed me to my seat quite concerned and then asked me exactly what the problem was, so I lifted up my empty can of beer and small bottle of cognac and said "I have no drinks" and smiled at her, at this she laughed, shaking her head at me, took my empties and quickly replaced them with full ones. The joke that I had with the stewardess did have it's merits, she took care of me all through that flight to Bangkok and never let me run out of drinks again.
Our first stop on the way to Thailand that day was Rome, I had never been to Italy before and still haven't, so I was quite interested and I was looking around as we taxied to the terminal, I could see that they were working on the runway there and were adding an extention to it, that was almost finished. We had to get out for a while at Rome, so I quickly disembarked and just as quickly, I found the business class lounge there, went in, poured myself a large cognac and got a plate of nibbles from a table with snacks on it. We only stopped for a short time in Rome and then we were soon called to reboard the aircraft. Back in my seat, the stewardess brought me some drinks as soon as I sat down, the engines hadn't even started yet, so I thought to myself "this girl must think that I am an alcoholic", but inwardly I was quite pleased with the attention. The engines then started and we soon started taxiing to the runway, I was still interested looking around at Rome airport, I had now been to Italy, but I had seen nothing. when we arrived at the runway, I saw that the pilot taxied down to part of the new runway extention, even though it wasn't finished completely yet, I thought that it was a bit strange, but I just shook it off. We then lined up on the runway, the engines were increased to full power and the brakes were released, automatically I looked at my watch and started timing the take off run, looking out of the window, we didn't appear to be accelerating as rapidly as we should have been, but I thought that it must have been some kind of optical illusion, I looked back at my watch (30 seconds) I looked back outside again and thought "this is not an illusion, we are definitely not getting up to speed here", the engines sounded at normal full power, so I didn't understand it. Now I started to just focus on my watch, it was already showing 45 seconds and we were nowhere near take off speed (V2), still focussing on my watch, I watched the second hand sweeping 50, 55, 60, 65, then the aircraft just crawled into the air, I looked out of the window and saw the end of the runway disappear underneath us, just about 20 feet below us, I then finished my cognac in one swallow and called for another one.
I relaxed for a while afterwards, ate some spaghetti bolognese that they served and then had some cheese and biscuits with a small bottle of port. I tried to watch the in-flight film that they were showing then, but it was not very interesting. I then tried reading the magazines, but there was nothing of interest to me in them either. I thought that I would like to see the avionics on one of these jumbos, so I called the girl over and asked her if I could visit the flight deck, she said that she would go and ask the Captain and went off to the flight deck to check. About two minutes later she re-appeared and asked me to go with her, we went onto the flight deck and I was introduced to the crew there. I sat on a small seat behind and between the pilots and we started talking about the flight systems, they were slightly different to the ones that I had worked on before, but still easy for me to recognise and read. After sitting there for a while I said to the captain "I am not a nervous passenger in the least, but you really had me worried on take off from Rome" at this, he turned round and said to me "You think you were worried? You should have been sitting here, then you would have been terrified", I went on to ask him what the problem was and then he told me that he was three tons overweight and he knew it. I then left the flight deck, sat back down in my seat again and ordered some more drinks.
When I was in the RAF, we were not allowed to let any aircraft be loaded even close to the 'all up weight' (AUW) limit of the aircraft, let alone go over it, for safety reasons, so this revelation shocked me, this pilot knew that he was overweight before he started the take off run, that was why he used part of the new runway extension, to try and compensate for it and it very nearly ended up in disaster. It was only because of my knowledge and experience on aircraft that I knew something was wrong at Rome, none of the other passengers onboard the aircraft had any idea at all just how very close we came to having an accident there. This is the first time that I have ever written about this experience and for obvious reasons, I am not going to name the airline company involved with this, but I shall tell you that I never flew with them again and I never will.
I fell asleep shortly after my visit to the flight deck and didn't wake up again until we were on final approach to Don Muang, Bangkok international airport, I was told by my manager back at GQ to look out of the starboard side of the aircraft on the approach to Bangkok and I would see the dome, we were still quite far away at the moment and I was looking at the country, this was the first time that I had seen Thailand and at first appearance to me, there seemed to be a lot of green fields, but also there was a lot of waterways, canals, rivers, etc. Just before touchdown, I looked out of the starboard side, I did see the dome and I knew that it was going to be my home now for a very long time. When we touched down at Don Muang, looking out of the window I could see that half of the airfield belonged to the RTAF and between the airport and the RTAF side of the airfield there was a piece of land and a golf course, people were actually playing golf in the middle of the airfield, this I thought was very strange and potentially dangerous, but it would seem like nothing at all compared to the many other things that I would see over the period of my first visit to Thailand.
I shall be adding to this site over time, so if anyone is interested then please have a little patience and call back here from time to time. One of my very few pleasures in life these days is beer so I shall be occasionally referring to beer, I just wish that beer was the only reason that I am legless all the time
Thanks for viewing my site, cheers for now, Legless
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