Monday, May 31, 2010

The Plane is on Fire!

So we were about half way through a mission one time, and things were going well.

I was sitting at my position doing my job, having a good time. The crew was working well together and we were looking forward to getting back to base.

I'm getting my butt kicked, being busy so the first time I notice a little flash out of the corner of my eye I think nothing of it.

Head down, still working I see it again.

Now this is getting kind of annoying. I'm distracted by this flashing light that I keep seeing, but I keep working.


"What the heck?"

I look over at the officer that is sitting near me, he's head down working away. I notice there are lots of lights and things on his position that could be causing this annoying little flash of light.

Get back to work, and ignore it I think to myself.


"Alright I'm gonna figure out what that is and cover it up."

So I sit there and I watch the officers position to see if I can identify the source of my annoyance.

That when I notice about two feet above the officers head a little dark streak is developing between two pieces of equipment.

"What the heck? That's not supposed to be......"

Then I see what the little flash has been.

Flames poke out between the pieces of equipment.

Flames on a plane. Not good. Really not good.

I fly on a fairly big plane, so we have about 90,000 lbs of JP-8 jet fuel in the tanks, as well as see hundred pounds of liquid oxygen. Which the flames are coming out right next to one of the ports to hook up our masks.

Now we have been trained to deal with these situations. We practice them. Again and again. I can deal with this in a calm manner.

I scream like a little girl. And smack the officer on the back of his head.

"What the!?!"

He is not happy that I have so rudely interupted him with a smack on the head.

Then I point.

He looks up, sees the flames coming out of his position.

Being the highly trained military officer that he was he puts his training to good use. He screams like a little girl, and runs to the other end of the plane.

"Fire, my positions on fire!"

As he runs down the aisle flailing his arms excitedly.

So now I'm standing there watching the flames lick out of the equipment, thinking to myself "will my underwear be clean when they find my charred body?"

Then the training kicks in. I call the crew on our planes interphone, inform them of the problem, and reach over and turn off the position.

That's the first step. Turn it off, and hope the lack of electrictiy will stop the flames.

It doesn't.

So I put on my oxygen mask, and check everyone else on interphone to make sure they are on oxygen.

We have these great fire extinguishers on the plane that work on any type of fire. It's called Halon 1211. Great stuff, it'll put it right out.

But you have to remember that while Halon won't kill you, when it mixes with carbon (such as from burned electrical equipment) it produces chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas is bad. It's really bad when you stuck in a plane at 30,000 feet breathing recycled air.

I shoot that position full of Halon! Man what a blast! That extiguish goes off, get a little kickback, and the fire is out.

We ride the 40 minutes back to base with our oxygen masks on, not really comfortable, but much better than the possibility of breathing chlorine gas.

Land without incident and get off the plane. Find out later that if it had burned a little longer we would have had a big problem because the flames were close to the insulation of the plane.

Too bad I was in Saudi and couldn't have a beer after that flight.

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