Emergency landing!

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Written on Saturday 12 October

I’ve made it to Addis Ababa where I write by the dim lights of the airport’s emergency lighting following a power cut that pitched the whole terminal into blackness.

The total blackout only lasted a few seconds before emergency lighting kicked in and slowly light was restored to terminal two. Still it’s a little worrying. I hope the air traffic control tower wasn’t affected.

This is just one incident on one of the most bizarre flights of my life.

We took off uneventfully from Lilongwe on schedule. I installed my headphones and blindfold and drifted off into an uneasy doze. But no sooner had we reached altitude than it felt as though the plan was dropping again. I thought I heard someone behind me say: “We are going down,” but that wasn’t possible it was a six hour flight and we’d barely been in the air half an hour.

I decided my paranoia was making me imagine things and tried to doze off, I’d been joking about the state of the aircrafts and wondering with my truck buddies if I would make it home. I decided this jesting created unjust paranoia about my flight and tried to ignore the feeling that the plane was slowing as though coming in to land.

Then suddenly the plane hit the ground with a thud. What the f**k! I lurched forward ripping off my blindfold and looked out the window to see brown grass stretching endlessly away from the plane. No buildings were in view and certainly not an airport. What was happening? Was there a problem with the plane? Where were we?

Around me none of the other passengers looked panicked, confused perhaps but not panicked. There had been no announcement that we would be making an emergency landing so why had the plane come down in a field?

The calm in the cabin put me at ease. I was relieved that we were on the ground and apparently safe, but wondered what would happen next? Then the tannoy crackled into life, first in Ethiopian, then English. The announcement confirmed our arrival at Blantyre and thanked the disembarking passengers for flying with Ethiopian airways.

Phew, it was a scheduled stop, but I had no idea it was happening and neither did the guy next to me. No wonder people looked confused. I felt a little foolish for assuming the worst but my overwhelmingly I was relieved.

We had flown an hour south to Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi, where a number of passengers left and some more joined, only for us to take off and head north again to Addis Ababa.

The drama didn’t stop there. No sooner were we back in the air than an announcement came over the tanoy. “We have a passenger on board who is feeling unwell is there anyone on board who is trained to provide medical assistance.” What! This journey was starting to feel like I’d rocked up on the set of airplane. Luckily after a crowd of people gathering for 10 minutes a few rows behind no more came of the incident, so I can only assume the passenger was fine.

The last random incident of the day came about half an hour ago when the young guy I’d been sitting next to on the plane found me in duty free and told me I was going for dinner with him. I very politely thank him for the offer but said no. He was persistent but after refusing his offer three times he walked away only to return seconds later and suggest coffee instead. Again I declined thanking him for the offer, then tried to hot foot it out of the shop and loose him in the crowd.

What is going on today?

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