SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Dousing a Dangerous Development
By Dave Kiffer


January 09, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - The petty dictators of airplane discipline gave travelers an early Christmas present recently by allowing us to take water on plane flights again.

Water had been banned you remember because it was dangerous. At least that was the theory.

Some really clever miscreants in Britain had been foiled in their attempt to create some sort of water-based bombs and blow up a whole bunch of airplanes. Therefore we were forced to hand over our Dasanis and Purple Mountains at the gate

Good thing too. The beverage service on flights was getting so bad that people were BYOBing so much liquid that the overhead bins were getting too full of spritzer and airline toilets were flushing so often that it was a challenge keeping the planes aloft.

jpg Coffee, juice, tea

Coffee Juice Tea
By Tab, The Calgary Sun
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Not to mention the fact that the Midwest was getting bombarded by so much of that frozen flotsam (it's only called jetsam at the point of deplaning!) that the National Weather Service was declaring vertical tsunami alerts for most locations immediately west of O'Hare International or east of DIA.

Of course, cynical folks might say the water ban was solely to encourage passengers to gorge themselves on the more expensive "in flight" beverages, thereby engaging in self-sedation and not noticing that "five-star in flight service" now consisted of two (2) packs of peanuts on the Seattle to Anchorage run.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the planes seemed to run out of the free water, soda and juices even before the "it's okay to fire up the personal electronics" bell would go off on the climb past 10,000 feet. I think not.

At any rate, our aeronautical dehydration nightmare is finally over. And just in time, because it looks like all that extra "passenger carry-on" water will come in handy. It seems we've got a rash of "in cabin fires" to contend with.

Admit it, you always snicker when the pre-flight safety spiel reminds you that "federal law prohibits tampering with the smoke detectors in the lavatory."

It's hard to imagine that anyone is so hard up for a smoke that they would risk the wrath of the TSA, the air marshals and their fellow passengers (who since 9-11 feel more emboldened to gang up and "whup the living tar" out of any fellow passenger acting the least bit odd or - God forbid - looking foreign).

But now it seems that in cabin "fires" really are a serious concern. There have been two in recent weeks.

In the most recent, a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Portland had to make an emergency stop in Colorado Springs because of a small fire.

It was an odd little event. It seems a passenger was using one of those portable "air filters" that you wear around your neck to reduce the odor of your fellow cross country inmates and to also make sure that you are breathing air untouched by human germs.

jpg laptops

Exploding laptops
By: Tab, The Calgary Sun
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Considering that airlines now save money by recycling economy class air through two Renuzits in the rear lavatories (can't call them bathrooms because there is no bath or restrooms because there is no.), it was probably not a bad idea to get on board the jet with a personal air filter. But this particular device got so overworked that it caught on fire.

No word about whether the passenger was hurt by the malfunction but the smell of smoke (and the flashbacks of that yahoo trying to light his "shoe bombs" on fire a few years ago) immediately caused the diversion.

Also no word on whether or not neighboring passengers were able to use their now legal personal hydration devices to douse the flaming personal air filter, but I certainly would have deployed my water bottle in a similar situation.

The other flight that got interrupted also involved odors and fire, though a little bit differently.

An American Airlines flight from Washington D.C. to Dallas was diverted to Nashville (tout de suite!!!) because passengers smelled sulphur from a burning match. No, it wasn't someone lighting up in the restroom, at least not that way.

Apparently the cause was a passenger who was concerned about a certain gaseous emission and decided to cover it with a match.

Where I come from lighting a match after a toot could be considered almost suicidal. Right up there with tossing a cigarette down the hole in an outhouse. We've all heard how that turns out and it's not pretty.

But this person was obviously raised in a different environment. An environment where a burning match was apparently the next best thing to a big splash of rosewater.

Anyway, this southern belle wanted to cover up the smell and lit a match. Natch, that led to a flight diversion and a quick stop in Nashville (where, no doubt, someone is already writing a song - "I'm Excreting, on a Jet Plane" - to immortalize the incident to be released on "Jingle Smells" the next album by Flatulina and the Vapors).

I can see the point of those concerned about the smell of burning sulphur (or in this case the smell of someone burning sulpher in an attempt to cover up the sulphurous smell of a eye-burning gastronomic bomb) on a plane.

Fire at 29,000 feet is not something to trifled with. Particularly since using the wings for the "family fire safety gathering place" is problematic at best.

So it is a good thing that the aristocrats of air travel have decided that "packing' water is okay. We will now be fully armed in the event we need to douse a flaming row mate.

Now, if we can just get the rajahs of the jetstream to ban the chili at the airport snack bar.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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