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Odors on a plane

Michael Howlett

May 3, 2013

I was reading an article entitled “The Nine Most Common Airplane Accidents” and was quiet surprised that crashing and exploding into a massive ball of flame was not among them. You see, when I fly, that’s what I expect to happen.


Now, I know that flying is safer than driving a car, at least that’s what the airline companies say, but there is seldom an automobile accident in which a car drops 30,000 feet, so I’ll rather take my chances in a car. Plus, airplanes don’t have individual airbags.


I have good reason for my fear of flying, even though I had it before I had actually flown. My last two flights, things didn’t go well. I flew all the way across this great country to Seattle, then up to Anchorage, without anything more than a little turbulence. But when it came to flying from Bristol to Louisville and back again, all hell broke loose.


The flight to Louisville took place in the morning, so as soon as we reached the proper altitude, the stewardesses began serving coffee, orange juice and such. Then all of a sudden, the 727 nosedived for what seemed like a lifetime; I say that because I thought my life was over. Drinks and food flew everywhere; the stewardesses and any passengers on their feet were thrown to the front of the plane, and screaming was abundant. After the plane pulled out of the dive and leveled off, I politely asked a stewardess what happened. She hesitated and answered, “Turbulence.” I answered back, “The hell it was.” Actually, I said much more than that, but decency prohibits me from subjecting readers to my full tirade.


Since the flight to Louisville was such a terror that the purchase of some new underpants was required, I figured the trip back to Bristol would be much better. I was wrong. However, it wasn’t the flight this time, but the landing. We came in for the landing and before you could yell Amelia Earhart, we were going back up. A second attempt failed before the pilot managed to land the plane on the third attempt. When we taxied around, one wing was hovering over grass. You see, why I am not a fan of flying?


Okay, back to the most common accidents. Some, you would expect – turbulence, landing gear problems, bird strikes and engine problems – but there were a couple I didn’t expect, like odors and lasers. Five times since 2010, odors on commercial flights have caused not only illness, but hospitalization, and even forced flights to be diverted so as to make a quick landing. In each case, the odor is still unknown or still being investigated. The FFA has attributed the problems to an “unknown substance on board.” No offense to the geniuses at the FFA, but “Rooster” Edwards could have done better than that.


You might think that leaving Mexican food off the flight menu might solve the problem, but, apparently, the problem goes deeper than the bowels. I’m thinking we’ve got an X-Files here, but I could be wrong … well, there’s a slight possibility, anyway. I’m not sure what is emitting these noxious fumes, although cabbage could be involved, but I’m thinking sabotage, most probably by that nut job, the one I like to call “Monkey Boy,” who runs North Korea. The public threats of nuclear missile attacks are a ploy to divert our attention from the real threat - biological warfare.


The lasers that are causing problems are not the ones that blow up Godzilla, no, these are of the laser pointer variety … you know the ones students use to highlight their teacher’s private areas during class, or to shine in an opposing player’s eyes during a basketball game. So what’s all the fuss about laser pointers … well, they’re dangerous!


Between 2010 and 2013, laser pointers caused injuries on three different commercial flights. In two of the flights, a pilot sustained eye injuries, while a member of the flight crew sustained an eye injury in the other. In fact, one of those incidents got a young man 30 months in prison. Yes, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, isn’t that what mother used to say? Well, chalk one up for mom.


Now, I may someday fly again, but you can bet your Charles Lindbergh Memorial Barf Bag it won’t be a morning flight … airport bars aren’t open in the morning, which I think is a big mistake. A lot of people need to relax their nerves before braving odors from unknown substances, possible blindness from laser pointers, or the things I fear most, the possibility of crashing into a mountain, lake, ocean, swamp, billboard, Winnebago, Frito’s factory, Oprah Winfrey …. Well, you get the idea.