It’s a pilot scheme. You know, one of those pilot schemes Boris and Rishi like to go on. And now they are up front in the cockpit.
We shall find out the considered results of this aviation experiment at some point in the future, but in the meantime Boris is really enjoying himself. He has always wanted to fly an aeroplane.
During the flight he has knocked one or two levers and switches, causing the plane to lurch, but he simply guffaws, looks around innocently, and says: “That wasn’t me.” If the passengers can just continue being responsible, all will be well.
Rishi, or “Squiffy” as Boris has suddenly chosen to call him, is in the co-pilot’s seat. He’s also having the time of his life. All he has to do is enjoy the view and throw money out of the window from time to time.
Feedback from the passengers flying with BJ Airways has been mixed. Not long after take-off things got really rough and a message came from the front: “Please remain in your seats and fasten your seatbelts.”
It was simple and straightforward, they complied, and after a while they seemed to be over the worst.
But not long ago there was another announcement from Boris: “This is situation Delta.”
And a short time later they received new instructions from up front: “Please remain in your seats and fasten your seatbelts, or don’t remain in your seats and don’t bother with the seatbelts, being sure to follow safety procedures at all times.”
That caused a certain amount of confusion. Are they free to move about or not? Cabin crew have been doing their best to explain, but they are as confused as everybody else. The atmosphere on the plane is now distinctly fidgety.
The in-flight movie has been Airplane! Considering their experiences they have wondered if it was a documentary.
What has happened is that there has been a change in the weather. After the storms and darkness earlier in the flight things seemed to have improved and at last sunny uplands were spotted from the flight deck.
But now unexpectedly clouds have closed in once more, and in the reduced visibility Boris and Rishi can no longer see clearly what is ahead. Some of the more sceptical passengers wonder if they still know where they are taking them. Boris is in command and remains optimistic. “Steady as she goes,” he has declared, parroting a line he saw in a seafaring movie at the Eton Gaumont. He sees his role as not only piloting the plane, but keeping up morale.
So it’s time to serve the meals to the passengers and allow them some drinks.
Long aviation experience has shown the importance of crew resource management to ensure flight safety and efficiency. Teamwork at the top, in other words.
Alas, there are sometimes bad eggs who just don’t gel with their colleagues, and that is a problem that has surfaced on this BJ Airways flight.
It’s chief engineer Chris Whitty. His job is to keep an eye on the systems. And he is a worried man. Let us play you an extract from the cockpit voice recorder: “Captain, I have been analysing the data from my instruments and they show me that if we carry on like this it could be very dangerous.”
Captain Johnson: “Oh piffle, Whitty. Lighten up. The passengers need a break.”
“But Captain, being in a plane and not being able to see what’s ahead is not a good idea. Could I suggest that we change course, or do a U-turn?”
“Come, come, Whitty. That wouldn’t do, would it? If we changed course the passengers would lose confidence in us and think we don’t know what we’re doing. Planes fly in cloud every day and lots of them don’t crash into anything. And nothing has gone disastrously wrong so far, has it? Why don’t you go back to your seat and relax?”
Whitty is not assuaged. There are noises on the CVR transcript which suggest he may at this point have approached the control column.
“My plane!” Boris is recorded as suddenly saying.
Which brings us to CFIT. It’s an aviation term, and it stands for controlled flight into terrain, and has been behind countless terrible accidents.
What happens is everything is under control in the cockpit. Yet the pilot and crew are unaware of the looming disaster until it’s too late.
Generally it’s associated with poor visibility. Those in the cockpit are in full command, can’t see what’s ahead, but plough on anyway. Crews are advised that countering CFIT involves “knowing what you’re getting into and understanding what capabilities and resources you have that will ensure a flight is completed safely.” It also requires staying vigilant to changing conditions, and “being ready and willing to adjust your plans”.
Back to the cockpit voice recorder on the BJ Airways flight. Chief Engineer Whitty just won’t let it drop. “Captain, I really must insist. We cannot continue on this course. Something terrible might happen.”
Boris: “Oh please stop grousing my dear chap. Everything is perfectly splendid. And anyway, if we do crash into anything, we’ll blame the passengers.”