In-flight Confidential
Richard Havers and Christopher Tiffney

Richard and Christopher, along with thier publishers, kindly gave us 5 copies of thier book for you to win.

The lucky winners names are below, many thanks to all who entered

The book is also available from Amazon, click here for details
Richard Havers began his career in the airline business as a messenger for British United Airways when airliners still had propellers! He left the airline business as a Vice President for Continental Airlines. He has worked and travelled all over the world in aviation and now lives in Scotland where he normally writes books.

Christopher Tiffney spent 14 years working for the world’s largest insurance broking organisation in London, Seattle and New York arranging cover for airlines and aircraft manufacturers in the Lloyd’s of London and International insurance markets… he now has a proper job!

Click here for some examples of the BCal stories in Inflight Confidential
A hilarious and sometimes downright alarming insight into the airline industry and the world of aviation. Packed full with trivia, anecdotes and salacious gossip, it is the perfect holiday read for anyone who’s ever been on a plane.

The perfect mix of fact, fun and trivia In-flight Confidential contains perfect soundbites for extracts, serialisation and columns in newspapers and magazines.
The Competition is now closed, and the five lucky winners drawn from the hat are:-

Francis Firmin
Alan Reeves
Jackie Plummer
George Banks
Chris Guyler

Your books are on their way, well done

Many thanks to all those who entered, there were some good memories
More of Richard's stories can be found on his web blog

In-Flight Confidential Blog Spot

In-Flight Confidential was published by Green Umbrella Publishing on March 3rd 2009,
and is available from

Competition closed at 18:00 hrs GMT on March 7th 2009, winners names above
“People behaving badly, or bizarrely, are not the only things that give rise to airlines and air travel being a source of amusement. Flying is fun, air travel is fascinating and it’s the source of more than its fair share of amusing incidents.”
Sent in by Jackie Plummer (nee Henson)

I remember my very first flight on a DC10 to Houston and the whole crew must have been in on this!

We had finished the lunch service and I was working "down the back" as supernumary when suddenly came a rather cross sounding Captain over the PA "Miss Henson, please attend the flight deck immediately!"

Naturally, I was knocked sideways into shock and disbelief as the Number 1 and Bar Girl both glared at me disapprovingly saying, "Go on then, you'd better do as he says". Near to tears, not knowing what I'd done, I made my way in fear and trepidation through the aircraft via the midships galley amidst more disapproving tuts and whispers "She'll really be in for it...." etc etc. I arrived through first class into the galley and stood outside the flight deck door wanting to dissolve into a puddle. The "Flighty" appeared through the flight deck door and said "The Captain will see you now". I entered much as a naughty schoolgirl would the headmaster's study and no one spoke for what seemed like eons.

Without turning his head, the Captain handed me what I know now to be the PA system and said "Please, in future, tell your Mother NOT to telephone you whilst we are in flight!" OH GOD! What had she done??!! I took the "phone" from him, following his instructions to "press the handset tightly whilst talking" saying "Mum, MUM, are you there?? MUM, IS THAT YOU? ARE YOU THERE???" Suddenly the three occupants on the flight deck creased into fits of hysterics and the engineer guided me out of the holiest of holies back into the first class galley where I was met with more fits of raucous laughter. It suddenly dawned on me on entering the first class cabin where all its occupants began to applaud that I had been talking not to my mother but to the entire fully loaded aircraft! It was the longest walk of my life back down to the rear of that plane with all the passengers clapping and cheering at me!

I can't recall who the flight deck were or any others on the crew come to that - perhaps it's for the best! I often wonder though if there's any of them still out there who remember that incident!

Such was the beginning of a long and happy career with the best airline in the world!!"

Sent in by Bob Orridge former Ops Control Manager

Way back when BUA was operating the BAC 1-11 every weekend from Friday evening through Sunday we operated many many charter flights to European sunspots.

Normally these went fine except on the odd occasion when passengers switched off their brains once inside the terminal !!  Imagine the scene - the old centre finger flights boarding from adjacent gates, one flying to Palma the other to Corfu at about the same time, both full.

Flights depart with all seats occupied and two correct sets of boarding passes at the gates. Fine or so we thought until the Palma aircraft calls up when airborne to say they have 3 pax on board for Corfu. Followed a few minutes later by a call from the Corfu aircraft to say they have 3 Palma pax onboard!!

Boarding cards checked all pax went through the correct gates but somehow 6 pax decided to to break away from the lines at the bottom of the steps and walk to the wrong planes!

Then there were the 3 missing passengers from an aircraft on Gate 4 who were found after departure waiting on PLATFORM 4 at the Railway Station !!

Happy Days !

From Michael Rousseau

While as a BCAL MT driver I was returning to base with the flight deck crew who had just arrived at LGW from a royal flight, the skipper told me that the Duke of Edinburgh had spent some time on the flight deck during the flight and the skipper had asked him if her Majesty would like to join him, at which the Duke allegedly replied, quote "If it doesn't fart and eat hay, she wouldn't be interested". I thought you might like that little bit of inside information.

From Frances Firmin

Sitting on a distant gate, to which the passengers had to be bussed, for a 1-11 flight to (I forget where) we had waited some time for the final three passengers to be found and bussed out. The Captain apologised to the passengers and advised us the missing passengers had now been found and the bus was on its way. When the bus eventually arrived and the passengers disembarked and walked towards the aircraft one of them was quite a large lady wearing an enormous hat. The Captain remarked to the FO, with obvious annoyance at the delay, “Look at the silly cow in that ridiculous hat wandering over as if she has all the time in the world”. Unfortunately the PA was switched on and the whole cabin burst out laughing and clapped as said passenger boarded and walked up and aisle oblivious to the cause of the universal mirth.

When we (BCAL) first got the DC10 the call button was in the armrest which at the time was a somewhat innovative place to find it - narrow bodied aircraft having always had the call button in the overhead panel. Passengers unfamiliar with a wide bodied aircraft proved extremely inept at locating the call button amongst all the other buttons in the armrest and first time flyers on the DC10 pressed the call button by accident ad infinitum.

On about my third or fourth flight on the DC10 the Chief Steward did a PA at the beginning of the flight and invited the passengers to consider the options on their armrest. He invited them all to identify the reading light switch it - "switch it on", "switch it off", "thats fine" Then he said ..... "the switch beside the reading light is the cabin crew call button, now lets all press that one, see the light over your head is lit up to show where you are sitting, now press it again, see the light has gone off, now lets leave it alone shall we"!

It proved effective on that flight but there were a number of complaint letters which followed.

From George Banks

I was often in Lagos for catering purposes as I was responsible for the catering unit there. Taxiing out to go back to LGW one night on the BR 366 LOS/KAN/LGW mid eighties I think, on beautiful 747 G-BJXN pride of the BCAL fleet, tired after a long working day and sitting in B ZONE of FC I heard two people [passengers sitting in A ZONE] forward FC cabin] shouting at each other continually in the cabin, so loud did they become I asked the crew what was wrong…………it appeared that the couple were having a violent argument and after the crew tried to quieten them to no avail, the man disappeared to avoid his wife hitting him with her handbag as she had been doing continually.

As we were taxiing out, we couldn’t take off and this man came and sat next to me, after running from the front of the aircraft to the back and up towards the front again, with the wife in hot pursuit. As I didn’t want to be lashed by this womens handbag I got up and went to the galley, as by this time the Captain was taxiing back to the stand to offload them. The women was continually shouting at her husband “tell them all what you’ve done to me” so of course we couldn’t stop wondering what on earth this man had done.

Ideas and speculation from the crew ranged from the mostly unprintable [they were a good looking couple] to him wanting a divorce. We never did find out, but this couple made the flight late and we were diverted to Stansted due early morning fog at LGW which you often avoided if you got in on time. Apparently the couple travelled back the next night and were still arguing but never did tell anyone what they were arguing about

From Frank Skilbeck

British United Airways got its first Bristol Britannia in 1961; more came later.

Former Spanish Civil War fighter pilot, Captain Jose Maria “Pop” Carreras, at the time deputy flight operations manager of BUA, was charged with carrying out certificates of airworthiness tests (C of A’s) taking Brits taking them out of Stansted and over the North Sea.

C of A’s took place after heavy maintenance and power plant changes and were carried out at around 20,000 feet. The crew would conduct a series of checks one of which was to “feather” each of the aircraft’s four prop engines in sequence and then carry out a “re-light”. The command was “feather 1”…or feather 2, or feather 3 etc.” Feathering an engine means adjusting the blade pitch so that it slices through the air eliminating drag.

I was told, on a particular occasion, Pop gave the command “feather four” and the flight engineer duly feathered all four engines turning the Brit into a glider. It took two minutes to re-light one engine on a Brit. With calmness only associated with pilots in the movies (or Spanish Civil War) Pop re-lit all four engines and piloted the aircraft back to Stansted with nothing more than a change of underclothes to show for his trouble!

In the flight log he wrote: “We should modify the Britannia C of A check list as follows: ‘feather number 1; feather number 2; feather number 3, or feather number 4’ to avoid miscommunication on the flight deck. Thank you for your attention. J.M.C.” The changes were made; nothing more was said.

Pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight check lists on aircraft flying today have the benefit of experience gained in those early days by great pilots like Captain J. M. Carreras. Nice one Pop! It was a great privilege to work under you - I learned much.

From Alan Reeves

It was one of those stormy African nights as I arrived at the airport for the 707 21:00 departure to LGW.

LUN is around 4000ft high and required a 'high speed' take off to achieve a payload to go direct but this could not be used if it was raining. No problem we thought we only had 40 passengers. Little did we realise that it was fog and snow all over Europe and we could not make it and ended up night stopping. I was liucky enough to have a gentleman, who said he was from Boeing sales, onboard who had had one or two before getting to the airport and decided to shout his expertise around.

Never mind get the pax away and then the crew. For the crew I had already used their crew bus so my Fiat 131 was offered. Well believe it or not the entire crew got in and proceeded to drive to the hotel some 20 or 30 kms away - dont be silly of course they did not take their baggage as well. I went to the hotel later to reclaim my car and could I find the crew....I eventually had to walk all the floors and keep very quiete and listen for those noises they make when partaking of a few. Eventually found them and when they opened the door it was like that scene from the Star Wars Bar !

KHI circa 70/71.

After the departure I was in a hurry to get to my home of 6 months, a hotel a few hundred yards down the road from the airport, and meet my girlfriend who was over from the UK and have dinner with some BOAC friends. I did the naughty one, saw the departure, added 10 minutes to the departure message and legged it.

An hour later there was a call, how they found me where I was I do not know but at the end of the line was capt he spoke something didnt register and I said ' sorry but you have just departed....' Well we taxied out but went tech and now we are AOG.  Did that ever teach me a lesson....

From Chris Guyler

I used to be in the “Crew Rostering” department of BUA back in the late sixties and early seventies & when the merger was happening we ended up with two lots of BAC 1-11’s the 200 series and 500 series! I ended up being promoted from one of the shift workers who monitored the day to day running of the cabin and tech crew rosters to a ‘day worker’ responsible for building the 200 series pilots rosters, because my good friend and colleague John Simpson who was responsible for that function was given the task of taking over the pilots roster of the 500 series pilots that joined from Caledonian! That was just a bit of a background for you!!

I’m sure everyone will remember we used to operate lots of good old IT charters with the BAC 1-11’s and fly many holiday charters from Manchester and Birmingham to places like Palma, Malaga, Corfu and the like and the crews would position up to Manchester by train and spend the week there based in a hotel, flying different charters each day for a few days and then train back home or fly the last charter for the week back into Gatwick!

There was a wonderful Captain in BUA by name Captain Knight and naturally his nickname to all of us was “Starry Night” who was an absolute Gentleman in every respect and would do anything for you! He was kind, gentle, considerate of others and often used to do many little things over and above what was required of him. The First Officers used to love flying with him because he was so easy to get on with! One day when positioning to Manchester by train with his First Officer for the IT charter work they had to get the tube from Victoria to one of the main line stations, I forget which one, to board the train to Manchester. Keep in mind that at the time that they are changing stations on the underground negotiating many long wooden escalators (gee I’m going back in time now eh?) it was smack in the middle of the rush hour and there were thousands of commuters on the tube, Starry is with his First Officer in civvies and just as he gets to the top of one of the escalators someone beats him to it and he politely puts out his hand and waves through saying “after you”! The person takes absolutely no notice and probably didn’t even hear Starry say it and the next person behind them also pushes in and Starry says again, “after you”!

You can imagine the scene, there are hundreds of people all scrambling for the escalator and the First Officer is standing behind Starry as he keeps saying to all the people that are passing him, “after you, after you” until eventually after about 30 or more people had passed by, the First Officer virtually pushed Starry onto the escalator saying to him….”for God’s sake Starry get on with it, we’ll miss the bloody train to Manchester”! He just couldn’t help himself as he was the epitome of politeness!! A wonderful man and a delight to work with!

I hope you can visualise the scene; when the First Officer related the story back at the office when they got back, we were in fits of laughter as we could so easily see it happening with dear Starry!

From Roger Botting

From 74 until 80 I was a loadmaster on the B707 freighters, we often did horse flights to some various interesting destinations around the world, although hard work they could often be fun and never the same.

I was on a flight scheduled to go Gatwick-Shannon-New York during the winter one year, on checking in at flight dispatch the crew met up as did the flight attendant that we would carry on these horse flight as we not only had 30 horses on the plane but all we carried 10 grooms that would attend the horses during the trip.

The flight attendant advised me after we had introduced ourselves that she had only ever done the training course but had never operated an actual horse flight, I assured her that the grooms flew all the time and she should not have too many problems apart from the fact this was a horse flight which meant the plane was full or horses which meant it was not like first class on a schedule.

Getting to the aircraft I met up with the head groom Mick who I had done already a number of horse flights with, I noticed we only had 4 grooms in all at Gatwick but Mick assured me that the rest would be going us in Shannon along with most of the horses.

Handling in Shannon was always slow but things looked good as the horse boxes had been all lined up on stand as we came in to the stand, doors open, cargo door open and the high loader came on to the aircraft, things looked good. After we hooked up the high loader is when things started to go wrong as the loading staff all took off to handle other aircraft, to cut a long storey short it took nearly 4 hours to get loaded by which time the flight deck hours had started to get tight and the captain was getting anxious.

Mick the chief groom then told me that it appeared that we would only pick up one more groom but we would have 5 other passengers that the charterer had agreed to give seats to, Mick advised that they had all agreed to sit in with the horses on take off and landing, normally we have 10 horse boxes with 3 horses in each box, the grooms would be in the horse boxes on take off and landing to calm down the horses. One of these extra passengers was a priest, Mick asked if I would sit in one of the boxes as nobody wanted to ask the priest to have to sit in with the horses on take off and landing so I agreed and told Mick that I would sit in the last box closest to the priest so I could also keep and eye on him as well.

After closing up the aircraft I just reminded the captain that on these horse flights on take off if possible its better to try and do a rolling take off rather than stopping at the end of the runway and applying full power as the horses have a hard time keeping a footing.

We get everybody settled down and start to taxi out but rather than a nice rolling start the captain lines up on the runway and we sit, after about 3 minutes the power goes on full and the brakes are let go, its at that point it sounds like the London blitz with 30 horses trying desperately to keep a footing in the horse boxes, they are kicking and yelling up a storm including the 3 I am trying to calm down and hold on to.

The horse nearest me kicks completely through the back of the horse box which is next to the priest, I catch a glimpse of him in full crash mode with his head between his knees, its then I realise that he is praying rather than getting ready for a crash, next, one of the passengers goes past me like a bat out of hell heading to the back as white as a sheet, where, to join the priest in prayer.

Needless to say during climb out it took us a long time to get the horses all calmed down but after about 30 mins they settled down and calm is returned to the cabin, the head groom was not too pleased, the priest was still praying as was the passenger that fled in terror.

When I went up to the flight deck I was covered in horse dung and straw, the captain asked what happened which I then went through why we like rolling starts when we have horses onboard.

We arrived very late in to JFK, it was one of those very dry but very cold nights in New York, it was about 18F and I was not looking forward to offloading the horses in those temperatures. In those days our handling agent was United Airlines, Scott Thompson who was waiting for the aircraft had arranged that we offload in one of United's maintenance hangers which was a very welcome and nice surprise for us and the horses.

As a loadmaster I had carried many animals over the years, apart from the regular horse flights we hauled cows, sheep, pigs, goats, day old chicks, dogs and cats all over the world, I remember one flight ex Australia one Christmas which I joined in Honolulu. We had just 2 horses on the aircraft, Mick was the groom again on this flight, we dropped one off in Shannon and the other off in Manchester, Mick told me that the 2 horses had a value greater than the 707 that carried them.

From Keith Haynes

A main board director was stalking Cale House looking for Jeremy Dixon around lunchtime and Jeremy appears some time later and the Director stops Dixon and asked where he had been.
"To the barbers" says Dixon.

Director "Most of us get our haircut after work or at the weekend"

Dixon " Well it grows in company time so I will get it cut in company time"

Director storms off without reply!  All staff in the area were just on the floor laughing.

The two ladies were the very blond Ross, now somewhere in Canada and forgive me I cannot remember the other young lady for which I will be crucified.

During the night we had two aircraft to cover the Queens departure, the normal sheduled arrival and the ' special ' aircraft. Disaster nearly struck at every move. I had Phil Baker and Norman Beal down to help and we flight watched from the airport office to make sure it all happened. During the night I was driving back into town to collect some items and realised I was nearly out of fuel, it was very dark and about 0300 ! Well I just happened to drive up behind some engineers who I managed to stop and get some spare fuel from them. There is a lot more to the story but I am not sure I can write it out....

Later the special aircraft was arriving a little earlier than scheduled and guess what, not a Zambian Airways ground handler in site, oh and neither were those engineers ! So the traffic boys, me Norman and Phil that is, waved the aircraft onto an area designated for the departure and where we thought the VC10 that had brought the Queen in had parked. Well it was a good guess but about 20 feet to far to one side which we found out later.

We continued with our preperations but about an hour before departure the 20 foot discrepancy was found - beacuse the red carpet didnt reach the steps. Well no problem you would have thought lets just move the carpet as there was no other hinderance that it would cause. No they made us the move the aircraft in a big circle to get it where they wanted.  We were fraught but it all went well.
Dont you believe it

The picture is the Bcal aircraft just before we boarded the Queen. Georgie Banks had flown down to prepare the food for the flight back and we had a series of ' happenings '.

He arrived a few days before and brought brand new silver for the flight and I suggested he left it in the Dip Locker until we were ready to depart and then I would be in a better position not to have issues with the likes of customs. Unfortunately that is where the silver was when the aircraft started to taxi back out again and the new phrase ' Im so upset ' was born - uttered by George as I disrespectfully chuckled. He got his own back by blaming me for the catastrophe in his book. Bless.