Dramatic Departure from New Zealand

Lan Airline New Zealand flight

Have you ever heard the story of the international flight which was recalled to gate and held for about half an hour because a passenger thought there was a screw loose on the port side wing? Well that’ll have been our flight out of Auckland.

Sitting in the plane, Ebru at the window seat as usual, the plane slowly taxiing towards the runway, I look out of the window and notice something unusual… surely not! That couldn’t possibly be a screw sticking out of the wing?? The hostesses are going through the safety brief (ironic, come to think of it). I am loathe to interrupt them on account of this, since it may well be a sensor on the wing or something I haven’t seen before. Besides, how likely that it’s a loose screw? And the consequences…

We’re getting close to take off and the safety brief is still running, so I decide it’s time to get the stewardess’s attention. I show her a blown-up image on my camera and point out of the window. She disappears, the chief hostess appears, borrows my camera and returns a minute later with a guy in a white collar and shoulder emblems. He disappears, the plane stops. We wait.

Lan Airline
Look again: close up image of the loose screw…

An announcement that we’re returning to the gate to check “some procedures” and the plane reverses. Parked at the gate, eventually a man in a glow-jacket shows up with a ladder. He sets it to the wing, mounts the engine, leans over and produces a huge screw driver…

Eventually the captain comes on the intercom system and explains that a passenger pointed out a loose screw on the wing, a problem which has been rectified and we’re now ready to take off. Some passengers start clapping and some in my vicinity congratulate me, saying I could have saved many lives and I should be put up in business class, etc. (I don’t think it’s really that serious but hey, you never know.)

The chief hostess took my details and I did eventually get an email from LAN in Spanish, saying something to the effect that a case has been opened. I review the case number on their online system – under investigation. I’m curious. A couple of weeks later I check the case again – case closed. Oh well, I guess it should suffice that I arrived at my destination in one piece! 😉


We leave Australia with fond memories and are loaded with excitement and, to be honest, a measure of fear as we anticipate the beginning of a completely new adventure through South America. We have travelled long and hard, through some of the poorest places in the world, and so should be mentally prepared for any situation we may face. But of course, having heard some stories about places in South America and seen films like “City of God”, we’re not sure what to expect.

Given the unusual situation before take off and our departure from another piece of the globe, we decide to make the best of it, have a few drinks and get merry.

Lan airline Auckland Santiago flight

In the back galley we talk a bloke called Alan, a farmer from Australia. His story gives you a good example of how big business functions in this day and age:

He used to have hundreds of cattle and get a decent price for his meat, selling to butcheries across the country. Since the overwhelming domination of the main supermarkets, it has become more difficult for him to continue this business.

The main supermarkets in Australia, Coles and Woolworths (both American owned) lobbied the government to pass laws about whom farmers can sell their meat to and at what price. Now Alan can sell his beef for only a mere 89c/Kg of steak, namely to the big supermarkets. Woolworths and Coles buy the beef at this cheap price and export it to buyers in Asia. They then re-import it to so they can sell it for $17/Kg in the supermarkets. – Is it any wonder that most people on earth live in dire straits?

Alan has since given up cattle farming.  Morevoer, he tells us that, since the mining boom in Australia, his farmland could now be confiscated at any time if they decided it was a good mining prospect.

Beware the trojan horse called “Globalization”.