Monday, April 04, 2005


Late arrivals assist in paramedic activities.

HumVee caddy cornered in front of a fire engine. The hosing has stopped at this point.

D.I.A. is short for Denver International Airport, as read on the side of this emergency vehicle.

The fire hoses (right and left of aircraft) have been on full blast for about two minutes by now, anyone calculate the total volume of liquid displaced at that rate of consumption?

Money shot. You can see the misty vapors of the extinguisher afloat in the air - or is it condensation from the steam pouring off the just cooled engines? Sitting in seat 24A, towards the rear section of the aircraft, I exited via the rear slide, the same one shot in the first photo.

Shaky hands after exiting the vehicle. These are the Hum-Vee support vehicles and airport based fire engines. They administered hundreds of gallons of some type of extinguisher to the crackling open fire on the right outboard engine.

The silhoutte of the emergency inflatible raft is illuminated by the strip of indicator lights on either side.

Prologue

EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE THEIR OWN NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

Besides, couldn't we all use the extra character? But no, really, as existentialists will agree, these events bring you closer to your core, your character - in record time. It's amazing how routine our daily life can become, to the point that we get stuck in the rut of our own circular thoughts, precepts and rhetoric.

That is, until you walk away unharmed from a potentially fatal incident. Now, the ironic part of this particular incident was that the net sum of the damage inflicted upon all participants was barely physical, not withholding a few minor sprains and bruises. No, unlike most catastrophes, there were few true traumas to eulogize over. In fact, I walked away completely "unharmed and nominal" as an insurance adjuster might categorize my condition, just before hurriedly moving on to the next passenger / claimant / potential litigant.

You see, this pickle just doesn't smell like the rest. I kid you not, there were other passengers who barely batted an eye, joking and cajoling how the emergency slides were, ahem, "fun." However, having been blessed with an rudimentary understanding of engineering and playing way too many flight simulators in my youth (in itself no doubt a blessing), I would hesitate to describe the events in similar vane. Others, more in the know, sat awestruck on the impromptu bus ride back to the terminal, eyes focused dearly on nothing in particular. You could tell that these people were indeed aware of the sheer luck we had all experienced, that we were all no more than 30 seconds, give or take, from a mid-takeoff engine failure: statistically the most lethal, stereotypical mechanical failure in commercial aeronautics. This is "the one" everyone is realistically worried about during take off.

This is my account of the minutes and seconds that passed during that night, and the days and weeks following.