This is your pilot speaking: brace for the greatest emergency of our lives

Dan Tipney
6 min readJan 7, 2021

It might seem hard to believe that just 17% of the global population have ever set foot on a commercial aircraft. However, no doubt like many who read this, for much of my life I have been fortunate enough for flying to feature as a regular means of holiday travel. Imagine for a moment that you are a passenger on one such routine flight to your favourite beach-side location, currently cruising at 38,000 feet…

The plane is on fire, with catastrophic impact imminent unless immediate action is taken. The cabin crew have been trained to prepare the passengers for an emergency landing and the pilots to follow their standard procedures and divert off course to attempt a landing at the nearest airport. Following these procedures doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome, but it gives them a fighting chance.

Unfortunately, these are not the actions that are followed. The pilots conclude that the fire indications are, in-fact a scare-mongering tactic from the aircraft instrumentation and as such are not prepared to risk a late arrival by following the emergency procedures. After all, they couldn’t actually see any flames. The fire rages on…

In the cabin, despite the smell of smoke and a clear sense of danger, the passengers are highly unwelcoming of the request from the crew. They are reluctant to prepare for an emergency landing and instead insist that more drinks to be served, with extra ice due to the heat from the fire. Their wishes are followed and normal service is resumed.

On the ground, the operational control team for the airline hear of the incident and send a message to the pilots with strict instructions to remain on course and not to report their circumstances to air traffic control. The team are aware that this is not the safest course of action, however they also have concerns due to the financial cost of diverting and the risk to the airline’s reputation from any negative media coverage, should their emergency be revealed.

Consequently, a burning aircraft continues on course, filled with people who are satisfied that their immediate needs have been met. The decisions so far have been guided by a short-sighted attempt to save money and face, all in blind hope that if the fire is ignored, it will cease to cause a problem and everyone will be on the beach in time for sunset.