Derek & Jeans Photo Albums

Air France 747  flight AF0083
As Close to Disaster As We Want To Be!
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Story and photos copyright (C) D.Brandon 2002

After three and a half terrific weeks of vacation in the San Francisco area the dreaded final day arrived: It was time to fly home to Chester, via Paris, on the 16:30 Air France flight AF0083. The day dawned as usual and everything seemed normal. Uneventful ride to the airport, quick check-in, very good seats allocated on a fully-loaded flight and a quick loading in this very civilised airport - SFO.

Everything went well at first. The plane set off on time, started into the air then suddenly made a startling 'crack' noise! People in front of us started making strange hand-waving motions and wiping their heads; it was soon apparent that water was dripping on them from somewhere. This was not a good omen. Soon it seemed to be dripping in everywhere in the front Tempo (Cabin) sections, from the joints in the ceiling, a bit like "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plane".

Water started dripping in after take off!

Passengers had to vacate their seats - not a very good thing because the plane was full to capacity and there was 'nowhere to go'. We expected they would turn back, but they didn't. The cabin crew simply set to with great wodges of paper tissues, pressing them at all the joints to soak up the water. Everyone was amazed that they continued...

Next the water started running out around one of the TV sets hanging from the ceiling and the picture became monochrome red. Some of us told the staff we feared a fire risk, but they replied, "The Captain says it is not inside the TV". We found that very hard to believe. In fact they turned off the TVs later - I wonder why?

It even came running in down the TVs!
This one packed in so they turned them all off.

The next step up was catching the water in wineglasses (presumably from the first class section). The staff spent several hours with the glasses and huge amounts of tissue roll pressed to the roof - it was awful! We were concerned that what we were seeing might only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg... Who knows how much water was running into places where it might form a block of ice, such as the lock mechanism of the emergency escape doors or the undercarriage lowering machinery? People were genuinely frightened that they would not arrive home alive, if at all!

Huge wodges of tissue paper were used to control the water...

...and even wine glasses from 1st Class/Premiére

Eventually, in the middle of the night, the Captain announced that they had decided to land at Mirabelle airport in Montreal, Canada. It was a great landing (pilot only - no guidance aids, apparently). No-one was allowed off the aircraft.

I had been taking digital photos, much to the chagrin of the crew. They were going crazy and threatening me with all kinds of death, but I just said "OK, it's illegal. So show me the regulations." They couldn't so I just carried on.

We made an 'unscheduled' landing on the reputedly disused Mirabelle
field at Montreal, Canada
(Sorry about the judder on the runway lights).

Then some French technicians arrived and started dismantling the inside of the plane with us all on board. They removed huge panels and started prodding about. My wife says the Captain might have said they had found the cause of the problem but I am not convinced. The water was entering both sides and the centre of the plane but they investigated only one side of it (starboard).

Whatever, they put it all together again and we took off. Another 'frightmare' - as soon at the plane tilted the rain started again, but stopped after about an hour.

Next they essentially ran out of drinks. While we were grounded I was offered only water to drink, though when I insisted the Flight Attendant searched and found some orange juice. When the plane took off the 'bar' opened again, but there was only some white wine - I was told that everything else had been drunk.

Happily we arrived in Paris safe and sound, though exhausted. We and our luggage were transferred to a new connection to Manchester, but though we arrived OK one of our three luggage pieces (my 5-string banjo) failed to. It turned up next day.

I have to say that the 747 cabin crew did the best they could in the circumstances, but the Purser was very unhelpful and unwilling to talk to me. I wanted to discuss the problem with him and explain that if they were more forthcoming the photos would remain private. But he refused to talk to me.

The Air France airport ground staff were wonderful - much, much better than  were the British Airways airport staff after we once had a very unpleasant experience with them. It was so bad that I had to publish the story on my other (big) website ( ... eventually they contacted me, offered recompense and I took it down.

Here the ground staff gave us phone cards (we were only entitled to one) to contact our taxi and relatives, as well as vouchers (of value greater than it should have been) for a meal. We enjoyed an excellent meal (classic French cuisine) in the 'Flo' restaurant in terminal F2 in the airport, where the Serveur was very understanding and generous to us. All these staff deserve recognition from Air France and 'Flo'  and for their excellent initiative and executive decision-making in difficult circumstances!

I look forward to receiving a copy of the official technical incident report from Air France... Or a couple of free flights would be good...

Derek Brandon Write to Derek

(+44 or 0) 1244-683563

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Modified 6 May 2011