Barry Band: Happy holidays, but some fearful flights!

A Cessna mid-air. Barry flew aboard one in British Columbia.
A Cessna mid-air. Barry flew aboard one in British Columbia.

After two television episodes of Flights From Hell, 99.9 per cent of us will be thanking our lucky stars.

Chances of being in a disruption or a disaster must be tiny when compared with the millions of flights each year.

Vancouver ' where Barry spent time working in the 1960s

Vancouver ' where Barry spent time working in the 1960s

So, let’s be philosophical when we hear the flight is delayed or discover the plane has a busted toilet, which is what happened to the Lady and I – and 180 other passengers – when a labour dispute at Verona kept us waiting to disembark.

The aircraft’s loos were out, so when the steps were at last put in place there was a rush into the entrance hall and the friendly (!) Italian customs officers stood aside, grinning.

My wife hates flying and complains about what she calls the outside toilets, looking out onto the wing.

She once said: “There are no curtains in there.”


Now for my hair-raising experiences when I worked as a reporter on the Vancouver Sun in the 1960s.

The news editor often sent a team of reporter and photographer up in a Cessna to join the search for lost aircraft.

‘Lost’ in this context meant crashed, with the inevitable loss of life.

British Columbia is mountainous and the pilots are expert in negotiating the terrain, but one afternoon the photographer and myself thought we were joining the casualty list.

The pilot flew into a box canyon and did an amazing U-turn that was as scary as anything you could experience at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

It lasted less than 10 seconds and not a word was said.

Aircraft alarm number two was also in British Columbia, at the end of a media trip to the opening of a copper mine.

I’ve mentioned this before but omitted a description of “the transport” provided for the flight from the little town of Stewart, down the desolate Portland Inlet to Prince Rupert.

The transport squatted on the tarmac like a pregnant duck. Surely, the thing couldn’t fly?

The Grumman Goose was a twin-engined high-wing amphibian from the Second World War.

There were nine single seats in five and four either side of an aisle. The cockpit wasn’t partitioned.

The pilot handed back wrapped sandwiches, courtesy of Mayor Ian McLeod’s hotel, and then casually gave us the “in case of emergency” statement.

“If we have to go down, the Mae Wests (life jackets) are in the box at the back.”

So that was OK!

When he started the twin radial engines the noise was terrifying but when airborne the plane hummed along like a Honda Goldwing.

No wonder millionaires refurbish the Goose as flying Mercs.

My best remembered flights were to Vancouver and Edmonton with Air Canada.

Compliments to the cabin crews. I always loved their service, their appearance and their accents.

The final episode of Flights From Hell: Caught On Camera is next Wednesday, at 9pm on ITV1.

Buckle up!