Rats on a plane. Drunken rats.

Every now and then I get the urge to write a thriller scene set on an airplane. I’ve long loved books and movies about dangerous, high-speed, edge-of-the-seat flying — everything from The High and the Mighty to Airport to Snakes on a Plane.* And, of course, I revere the twin titans of films about flight: The Right Stuff and Airplane.

Maybe I feel this way because I’ve flown so much, and generally love it. Or because, over the years, I’ve had lots of interesting experiences with commercial air travel. I used to fly from Santa Barbara on Apollo Airways, which flew planes the size of my sofa. When you checked in, they would ask, “How much do you weigh?” I’ve been on a United flight to London that had to dump fuel and return to San Francisco, where fire engines chased us down the runway. I’ve awakened at midnight over equatorial Africa, when our Virgin Atlantic A340 turned on its landing lights at 36,000 feet — and I realized we’d crossed a border into a country that had no flight radar. We were in a sky where jumbos lit themselves up in hopes that they’d see each other in time to keep from colliding. I’ve taken off from LAX, shouting, Where’s the plug for my computer? Oh my God I need to power my laptop don’t you realize I have a book due tomorrow and it’s trapped inside this motherboard and to get it out I NEED ELECTRICITY. (Note to the Husband: Thank you again for showing me that my seat included not only a life vest and oxygen mask, but an electrical outlet.)

In my books I’ve included fighter pilots — Brian Delaney and Marcus Dupree. I’ve written scenes that feature crashing helicopters and a race between an SUV and a 757 that’s traveling at takeoff velocity.

But in my wildest, twisted imagination, I have not written a scene anything close to this:

Fired Research In Motion execs ‘chewed through restraints’ on flight.

The pair seemed heavily intoxicated from the start of the flight, according to one passenger. They drank, passed out, and woke up to continue consuming alcohol and yelling at one another.

Campbell was described as a “rowdy and abusive” passenger who at one point warned that he would “off people when they left the plane,” according to the Crown prosecutor.

A flight attendant said that Campbell also lay belly-down in the aisle during the ordeal, and began kicking the floor.

This might have been the point at which the Air Canada Toronto-Beijing flight diverted to Vancouver.

One of the men “assaulted a flight attendant and threatened to punch another,” the prosecution told the court.

Crew members eventually handcuffed the two unruly passengers with plastic restraints and then with tape. But they eventually “chewed their way through their restraints.”

The men have been placed on parole and ordered to pay $72,000 in restitution. They were fired by Research In Motion, makers of BlackBerry.

What kind of teeth do you need, or how drunk do you have to be, to chew through plastic handcuffs?

*Other good books/movies about flying: Alive, United 93, The Wild Blue, Seconds from Disaster, All Fall Down, Die Hard 2, And yes, while writing this post I have checked the TV schedule to see when the next episode of Air Crash Investigation is on. If you know of other good stories about flying, please tell me.

13 responses to “Rats on a plane. Drunken rats.

  1. Not a flight I’d want to be on; flying is my worst nightmare (well, crashing, actually).

  2. My all time favorite thriller about flying is Mayday by Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block. (Curious footnote: When the book was initially released, Thomas Block got top billing. The book was eventually updated to reflect airplanes in use years after the original came out.)

  3. Don’t forget “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the Twilight Zone ep. starring the Shat. Damned gremlins!

  4. How about all of the “Airport” movies from the ’70s. Nothing’s more frightening than being on doomed flight with George Kennedy at the controls.

  5. I’m reminded of the movie International Velvet, where, during a transAtlantic flight of the US Olympic Equestrian team, with horses, one of the horses went wild and his thrashing about threatened to endanger the plane, but the sedative drugs would have taken too long to kick in.

    They had to shoot him.

    • I read both National Velvet and International Velvet as a child… loved all things horses. Thankfully, I think I must have blocked that memory out. *eek*

  6. First stop on my morning internet surf. And what do I get? A dead horse.

    Thanks, Susan. 😉 Never a dull moment.

  7. Susan: Somehow I missed that movie. It sounds extremely plausible. “Oh my God, the thoroughbred has seized the controls. Do something!”

  8. Don’t have any stories to add, but found this posting most entertaining. Meg, at first I thought the headline was going to describe drunk rats on the plane chewing through seatbelts!

  9. I liked “Flightplan”–how do you lose a child on a plane?–
    and “Air Force One”. Can’t beat Harrison Ford as POTUS.

  10. How could I forget Air Force One? “You have given my country to gangsters and prostitutes.” Just bursting with awesomeness.

  11. I have to admit, I threw in the International Velvet reference because, as one who flies Air Canada from time to time, I thought it might be something for obnoxious drunken passengers who chew through their restraints and endanger the lives of everyone on board to keep in mind. (Assuming the horse tranks don’t kick in first).

    Or is that too severe?

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