Manchester airport bomb scare: There's no trauma like one in mid-air

As I know too well, the fact that the threat turned out to be a hoax will have been meaningless to the passengers who had to suffer through the terrifying experience

Share

It hasn’t been a good month for aviation news. First the horrors of MH17, followed swiftly by the crash of Air Algerie flight AH5017, and then on Tuesday a Qatar Airways plane was escorted by an RAF jet into Manchester Airport because of a “possible device” on board.

The fact that the bomb threat turned out to be a hoax will have been meaningless to the passengers who had to suffer through the terrifying on-board experience, and done little to assuage their fear in hindsight. And it’s a fear that is incredibly difficult to shake. We’re told that air travel is statistically far less dangerous than car or train, but if you’ve ever been on a plane that gets into serious difficulties, you’ll discover that it’s hard to trust the cold, hard maths when you are grappling with the sudden realisation that you are magically suspended in a metal box, 30,000 feet in the air, with absolutely no control over the situation. There is no greater feeling of helpless than being on a plummeting plane, certain you are heading towards your death.

It’s a feeling I know all too well. A few years ago I was flying alone back to London from Corfu. Around an hour into the flight, I noticed a strange smell filling the cabin. My neighbour nudged me, and pointed towards the back of the plane, where smoke was slowly trickling under the door of a loo. When you see smoke on a plane you think one thing: some maniac wants to kill us all.

People began crying, holding each other, and praying, as a member of the cabin crew ran up the aisle and banged on the door of the cockpit, while the rest looked on in horror. I sat quietly, frozen in fear and convinced the plane was about to disintegrate. But my thoughts were strangely calm. How long would my boyfriend sit on the doorstep waiting for me to let him in before he found out what had happened? Would my parents be phoned with the news or told in person? What would the headlines say tomorrow? I hope this doesn’t hurt.

Our story had a relatively tame ending. After a breakneck emergency descent, we were greeted by numerous fire engines and rushed on to solid land, abandoning our belongings. After a number of hours being quizzed on our movements in an airless back room at Geneva airport, and a three-month investigation, we were told that the fire had been caused by a mechanical fault in one of the toilets, and not an act of terrorism.

Much like the Manchester flight, in retrospect it’s apparent we were never in any real danger. But once you have become aware of your total vulnerability in the air it’s not something you can forget in a hurry, as much as I’d like to.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015