Two aborted takeoffs and six announcements later, life is back to normal

After my horrific Royal Jordanian flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, I was quite looking forward to an uneventful flight back to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific. I figured after the Royal Jordanian flight, nothing could possibly go wrong, because no higher being could possibly spite me that much.

After consuming a handful of glasses of champagne and soaking in a Cabana tub at The Wing for a while, it was time to fly to San Francisco.

Cabana at The Wing

We were about 45 minutes late leaving, though once we got to the runway we were number one for takeoff. As we lined up on the runway and the engines spooled up the pilots quickly eased back the throttle and we turned right off the runway. While I’ve had several go arounds, this was my first aborted takeoff ever. It was a complete non-event, though in the back of my head I couldn’t help but cringe/chuckle a bit at my luck. Before we even vacated the runway (probably within 10 seconds of the attempted takeoff) the captain was on the PA to update us in a calming voice – “ladies and gentlemen, as we began our takeoff roll we encountered a minor technical issue, and we’re just pulling off the runway to see what’s going on. We’ll update you shortly.”

Maybe five minutes later he was back on the PA to let us know that the technical issue had been resolved and that we’d be taking off shortly. We once again lined up on the runway and the engines spooled up. This time a bit more power was applied before we stopped, though the takeoff was once again aborted, though instead of going straight to the taxiway we had a fast taxi on the runway towards the terminal. Again, the captain immediately came on the PA and said “ladies and gentlemen, we had the same technical fault once again, so we will be taxiing back to the gate so the engineers can look at it. We’ll update you as soon as we can.”

As soon as we got to the gate and the engines were off the captain was again on the PA to explain what went wrong. He explained that when we were taking off an indicator light was going off saying that a cargo door was open, and that it was probably just a faulty alarm. He said we’d be getting a bit more fuel as well and that he’d update us as soon as he can.

30 minutes later the captain was back on the PA to inform us that we were all ready to go and that we just had a short air traffic control delay, and that we’d be underway shortly. Once we were underway he updated us yet again.

Admittedly the two situations I faced today were completely different. In the case of the Cathay Pacific flight the pilots were literally able to “pull over” and work on things, while when you’re in the air that’s not an option. At the same time I was reminded of how soothing it is (and not necessarily for me, but much more so for the infrequent or nervous flyer) when you hear a captain with a calm voice providing frequent updates.

Anyway, while the two issues experienced today are on totally different levels, kudos to the Cathay Pacific captain for his professionalism. I had the chance to talk to him briefly during the flight and thank him for being awesome.

And on a totally unrelated note it was 3AM before we took off, and I was dead tired and looking forward to just sleeping. The first six hours of the flight had to be the most consistently bumpy I’ve ever had on a transpacific flight. It’s not that the turbulence was especially horrible, but it was abrupt enough so that I couldn’t sleep.

Really isn’t my day, eh? I’m thankful to have made it safely after the Royal Jordanian flight, and probably won’t spend the next week fulfilling my usual addiction of looking at trips I can take, because I’m happy on the ground… for now.

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific, Travel
  1. Turbulence on a TransPac flight is never a fun thing to deal with, esp coming off of an experience like you did on your last leg. Combine that with 2 aborted takeoffs and all I can say is that’s a couple years worth of strange events in a day!

  2. The first aborted takeoff wouldn’t bother me much but after a second I would get concerned especially after watching an “Air Disasters” episode recently. Obviously different situations since that was in a rain storm and many decades ago (1950s).

    Were they keeping the seat belt sign for hours? While I realize they want you in your seat but we all need to hit the bathroom at times and getting scolded like a little kid is something I can do without.

    I’ve had an aborted landing during a snowstorm on a small RJ many years ago but nothing else and that one wasn’t anything serious. We just got diverted to another airport (and made for a long day).

    Enjoy your Easter day. Maybe you need a vacation from traveling 🙂

  3. Cathay’s safety record n crews professionalism r the reason I try to fly with them whenever possible.

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Weather in Seattle today: 69 degrees, low humidity, and not but a few clouds to speak of. Relax and enjoy your Easter my friend, you deserve it.

  5. Also, on somewhat of a different note, did you see the video of the Qantas and Emirates A380’s flying close together over Sydney Harbor to signify the beginning of their business relationship. pretty cool!

  6. Glad to hear this flight was better than the last. Have you left SFO already? I’m heading down there in about an hour

  7. A pilot I know says that CX hires a lot of ex-pat pilots from the British empire (UK/USA/Aus). I’m sure it’s a bit easier to decide to move to HK than Amman, Jordan, so perhaps RJ is limited to homegrown pilots.

    Did you have a chance to talk to the CX pilot about your experience on RJ? Did he have any insight?

  8. Well, you know what they say: “In Europe, 200 miles is a long way. In America, 200 years is a long time.”

  9. I notice they placed two towels for you at the cabana tub. But the tub looks a little on the smallish side for two people. But it sounds like you guys were able to relax despite the size. Glad the CX flight was no repeat of the RJ one.

  10. @Mark and @LR – Dumbest replies ever. Get a life. Read Lucky’s the last post. He hasn’t had the best of days.

  11. Wow! Amazed with how infrequent aborted takeoffs are. I had three on my last AA mileage run last December. One from Miami to JFK, the pilot said there was an alert and they decided to check, they pulled off the runway and on next atempt everything went ok. It was a 767-200. Next, on another 767-200 flying from JFK to LAX and the Modus Operandi was the same you described @Lucky. Two aborted take offs and headed to the terminal because a light said that one of the cargo bays was open. 20-30 min at the Terminal, and way to go. I then thought that those things were much more usual.
    Anyway @Lucky, don’t make it too long before you fly again. Being a such experienced flyer, you know it is really difficult to live those kind of experiences and if you’ve lived one, it’s almost impossible to live another one ever again, or pretty soon at least. You know how safe it is to fly nowadays. It is more usual to be killed crossing the street, so get on the air ASAP. 😉
    Don’t leave us without your adventures too long.
    By the way, really looking forward to read your complete analysis on AA’s new Business Class.
    Keep up the great work!

  12. I experienced a more severe aborted takeoff from SFO in a UA 747 many years ago. The wind was very strong and gusty, and coming from an unusual direction. We taxied for takeoff normally, then, when the pilot tried to leave the ground, the plane shuddered violently. The pilot quickly aborted, then tried a much more tightly controlled takeoff – same result. Five hours later, we got off successfully from a different runway. (It actually wasn’t that scary – not even remotely as bad as Lucky’s Royal Jordanian flight.)

  13. Thanks for the story. Partially closed cargo doors are a serious threat to safety. One or was it two DC10s went down because of that. I believe, but I could be wrong, that indicator lights became standard in cockpits as a result.

    I love flying Cathay but I’m troubled that the pilot didn’t return to the ramp at the first sign of trouble.

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