Premise: I wonder if there is an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records titled “people who land twice in Paris in the same day without meaning to.” If so, my name should be on that list.
First things first. The flight from Boston to Paris was uneventful, yes the usual bits of heavy turbulence, but nothing too scary. When we landed in Paris, I figured, “phew, the worst is over.” Hah. Re-hah.
The Paris-Florence very early morning flight was more or less on time. A few seconds after our plane began roaring down the runway, though, the pilot aborted takeoff. I cannot explain to you how I felt right then…but certainly more perplexed than scared. Our pilot got on the intercom to explain, first in French then in English, that he had heard a strange vibrating noise as soon as he had revved up the engine for takeoff; under the circumstances, the plane could not leave the ground. We taxied back to the airport.
We waited patiently inside the plane for more than two hours while Air France engineers examined the plane’s four motors. The pilot finally informed us that they had replaced a thingamajiggy in one of the motors and that everything was fine.
Takeoff number two went smoothly enough. Once we were airborne, though, I began to wonder why the flight attendants had disappeared and weren’t offering refreshments. The Paris-Florence flight normally takes about an hour and a half, so passengers usually get served something within the first half hour. This time, nada. The only other odd thing was that the motors seemed a bit noisier than usual.
Well, about 40 minutes after we had left Charles de Gaulle, the plane began turning around. The pilot’s apologetic voice informed us that the same vibrating noise had started up again, and our only choice was to go back to Paris. His announcement was greeted with silence…but not one complaint. I was, I admit, a bit puzzled as to why we wouldn’t just go on to Florence, since by then we were about halfway there…but I suppose there must have been legal reasons…
Just before landing again in Paris, I heard a screechy sort of mechanical noise. For the first time, fear struck me…for a fraction of an instant. I am a fatalist at heart, you see…and, statistically, it’s more dangerous to drive a car than be on a plane…I relaxed again.
We landed. As we taxied toward the airport, I glanced out the window and saw that we were being followed by five large fire trucks and a couple of ambulances. Holy puffins! The pilot finally enlightened us: he had had to shut off one of the motors in flight. We had landed with three motors, instead of four. That explains the fire trucks…
Well, what follows is a very looong and not very interesting story that I will spare you. We were taken off the plane, thank goodness!, and escorted back to the terminal, where we were given a sandwich and drink voucher. (I was also finally able to call my semi-hysterical mother and reassure her that we were alive, that our plane hadn’t crashed.)
We waited for hours for another flight to be put together for us. We jealously watched passengers board subsequent (fully booked) flights to Florence. We waited. And waited.
Our flight number was finally called, and we were bussed out to the plane. It took so long that we began to joke that Air France had decided to drive us to Florence. Most of us quipped: “Hey, that’s fine with me!”
Then, when the bus stopped, one of my fellow passengers dramatically announced that this was the same plane we had boarded earlier that day. She said that she clearly remembered the name…Clare Island. Panic began to spread among the other passengers, some of whom angrily declared that they would refuse to board. I piped up before matters got out of hand, correcting her mistake: the name of our original plane was actually Tory Island, not Clare Island. In order not to sound too rude, I added that I had watched enough CSI Crime Scene Investigation episodes to notice things like that. Relief replaced frustration/fear, and everyone thanked me. We boarded the plane without further incident.
And we arrived in Florence in the late afternoon. Exhausted…but alive.