The Tall Senior Captain
Copyright © Martyn Adams, 2008. All Rights Reserved.
British Airways Flight 9 was a scheduled flight from London Heathrow to Auckland.
On 24 June 1982, the Boeing 747 flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, approximately 180 kilometres southeast of Jakarta, Indonesia. This resulted in the failure of all four engines.
Her eyes wet obsidian, burned and sparkled
As they laughed and joked over a quiet meal
Their passion to erupt,
Lustful yet loving
He knew part of him was most of her life,
And to him, all of her was more than his wife,
So proud he stood soaring, loving this part,
The Tall Senior Captain…
Of her heart
Intimate memories with her warm in bed
I’m kissing her lips and kissing her head
Why couldn't she stay? Her life, her loving, all now dead
Can you hear me now? I'll come to you instead
But not on that elegant, murdering, purebred
Can we again be together?
Are we not still wed?
From the cockpit ahead a volcanic cloud
A billowing void, an invisible shroud
(Intimate memories with her warm in bed)
Then cold cutting words from the engineer
"We have power loss - it's severe."
Disbelieving he smells the sulphurous fumes,
Reading the panel, he must never presume
(He's kissing her lips and kissing her head)
Lights flicker, masks on; engine sounds, so, so wrong
Keening warnings insistent for far too long
Rehearsed information, cold staccato in strict order
Calm numbers for each other, reassurance... and recorder
(Why couldn't she stay? Her life, her loving, but all now dead)
More disbelief and foreheads frown
Not one engine, but all four! "Keep our speed, point us… down."
Young smiling steward opens on the door
"Can I get coffee for… ?"
(Can you hear me now? I'll come to you instead)
Then, comprehending, his smile fades to ash
He can't see. He can't hear. They're going to ...?
"A little busy right now. Can you cope?"
Sliding to the sea and losing hope
(Not on that elegant, murdering, purebred)
"Seat the passengers there's a good man."
- unsaid: 'We're falling, they won't understand.'
Check the hydraulics, the power, check our fate
How long will it be, how long to wait?
(But four hundred tons of plummeting lead)
Repeat it again - say all loud and clear
The enquiry would know, they never showed fear
Engineer's disbelief, "Engine four's just restarted!"
An ascending whine - a shock, yet relief
(Can we again be together? Are we not still wed?)
"Power is back" his face red and burning
The engines revive, the plane, their hope, returning
The release, oh the joy, clawing back to the sky
Now search for a haven to end this!
(Shall I? Shall I not? …We are still not together; yet still we are wed)
And no-one dare look into the widower's eyes
As the Tall Senior Captain silently cries