'It was about that time my arm popped out'

I understand that airline stewards are contractually required to be errr... limp-wristed, but for anyone who missed it in Sunday's colour section, I thought this chap gave a good example of heroism, humanity and (as you will see) an extremely "down-to earth" :roll: sense of humour. Literally the opposite of limp-wristed, if you read the interview.

The Sunday Times - Magazine
January 30, 2005

Best of Times, Worst of Times: Nigel Ogden

A former steward with British Airways, Nigel Ogden, 50, remembers a flight in the summer of 1990 that went horribly wrong. At 17,500ft, with the captain being sucked out through the window, it looked as if the crew and 87 passengers would be lost.

We were scheduled to take off from Birmingham for Malaga at 7.35am, but air-traffic problems meant we didn't get off the ground till about 8.25. Apart from that, though, everything seemed fine. I was at the front of the aircraft, looking after club class. About 15 minutes into the flight, I nipped onto the flight deck to see if the crew wanted anything. As I was talking to the captain, I had my hand on the door handle and I suddenly heard this almighty explosion. The door literally flew out of my hand and I remember watching the galley floor lifting right up.

My first thought was: "It's a bomb!"

I looked round and anything that wasn't nailed down was being sucked out of the windscreen. My jacket, cups, a 16lb oxygen bottle, which hit me on the head. Then I saw the captain, Tim Lancaster, sliding out of his seat and through the window. I jumped back onto the flight deck, jammed my foot into the seat well and grabbed his legs. The wind was howling around my face. I couldn't hear a thing — I just held on for grim death.

At the time, we obviously had no idea what had happened. The windscreen had literally come away from the plane. In technical terms, we call it an explosive decompression. On the old BAC1-11, the windscreen was fitted on the outside of the plane. A very senior engineer had recently replaced that windscreen, but he'd used the wrong bolts. However, the wrong bolts were in the windscreen when he changed it, so it was difficult for him to spot. At about 17,500ft, it went.

When the cabin door was sucked off its hinges, it knocked out the autopilot. So we were spiralling towards the ground at 450mph. The wind was so strong it was bending Tim's body back against the plane. It sucked the shirt off his back. Eventually the force flipped him over and down against the side window. His head was banging against the window beside my face. I'll never forget that sight. His head tapping against the window. So ghostly. His eyes were wide open. I was convinced he was dead. There were little drops of blood coming out of his nose and eyes, running down his cheeks.

We thought maybe we'd have to let him go, but how could we do that? How could I look his wife in the face and say: "Sorry, I let go of your husband"?

God knows how long I'd been holding on. It seemed like an eternity. My hands were getting numb with the cold and I'd got blood all down the side of my head where the oxygen bottle had hit me. I was literally leaning out of the window myself, desperately trying to hold on, but I could feel that my feet were beginning to slip. John Heward, the purser, came bursting into the cabin and he shouted: "Nigel, you're going as well." I said: "I know I'm bloody going. Hold onto me." He grabbed my trouser belt and wrapped his arm round the jump seat. Sort of like a chain. That was about the time that my arm popped out of its socket. There must have been some pain, but I didn't feel it. All I can remember is looking at Alastair Atchinson, the co-pilot, struggling to get the plane under control and shouting "Mayday! Mayday!" into the radio.

I didn't want to let go, but I could hardly feel my hands any more, so John grabbed Tim's belt. But Tim had undone his belt after dinner, and his trousers came down. I had my face pressed against his bare backside. I was thinking: "If he's dead, he might be about to... you know, vacate his rear area. I hope he hasn't had a bloomin' curry."

God knows how, but while all this was going on, Alastair managed to get the plane under control. I let John take over in the cabin and I ran back to look after the passengers, who had all heard the bang. My poor colleague Sue Prince had been looking after the plane on her own, bless her. I screamed: "Brace! Brace!" Everyone knew the seriousness of the situation then. The pressure on Alastair must have been tremendous. Everybody's life was in his hands. But he brought that plane down perfectly. One of the best landings I'd had in 20 years with BA. We call it a greaser.

We'd been in the air 22 minutes after that window blew out, so there were ambulances and the press waiting for us when we finally landed. After we got everybody off, I went back into the plane to check it over. I looked into the flight deck and this paramedic was leaning over Tim on a stretcher. I could see Tim was shaking his head and talking. He was alive! The body is a wonderful machine, isn't it? Somehow it knew Tim was in trouble and shut down.

All I could do was cry. I'm not ashamed to say it. I cried my eyes out.
source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2772-1456759,00.html


Kit Reviewer
Of fecking brass !

Good skills that man & I imagine he will be having many nights drinking until the sun rises with Tim the driver.

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