A bit of history: down the chute at CDG

I was sorting through some old (paper) files this evening and came across some photographs from about 15 years ago. They were of an event that, as you can imagine, I’ve never forgotten: evacuating an airliner by going down the emergency chute. Since several people have bugged me about this over the years, I thought it was worth posting the pictures.

In brief, what happened was this. I was flying home from Paris on a wet and windy November day: CDG-BOS on a TWA L-1011. We taxied out and started the take-off run, but just below V1 we lost the #3 (starboard) engine in a sheet of flame. Maximum autobrake but no reverse thrust, of course; the runway was wet, the plane was heavy, and we barely stopped at the end of the runway. As we turned onto the taxiway, several passengers reported smoke coming from under the starboard wing. We’d blown several tires and they were smouldering. Fire in close proximity to a wingful of fuel is bad news, and we evacuated via the port slides. For some reason I was sent down first to help to catch people as they came off the slide. A fire truck (visible in the second picture) extinguished the smouldering undercarriage, and eventually we were bussed back to the terminal.

Before they could make alternative travel arrangements for us we had to retrieve our baggage and carry-on items. So we were bussed back to the plane, and were allowed to re-enter (in small groups, under the watchful eye of the airport police) to recover our things. It was after I’d got my briefcase (and two bottles of the nouveau Beaujolais), while I was waiting for the remaining passengers, that I remembered that I had a camera in my bag. Standing in the drizzle under the nose of the L-1011, I used my last bit of film to capture the scene.

The first five thumbnails are the pictures that I took. I scanned them in and used Arcsoft’s PanoramaMaker to stitch four of them into a composite. The original photos were a bit scratched up, but I hope you enjoy them.

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