The flight was unusually cold. Better than being too hot, in my opinion, but it was definitely colder that I’m used to on board as we headed west from London on a British Airways 747-400 and over the Atlantic Ocean towards JFK. No big deal, really, until about 3 hours into flight when it got REALLY cold. As in the air conditioner blowing full blast for about 15 seconds before cutting out completely. There was a brief, almost incoherent announcement made about crew and the flight deck. And my ears popped unexpectedly. They’re excessively sensitive, but it happened and that’s rare when at cruise.
Anomalies like that are rarely a good thing on airplanes and less so when flying 37,000 feet over the Atlantic off the coast of Greenland (flight BA115/23JUL). But the plane continued on and I didn’t think much of it, other than to wonder about getting a second blanket to keep my toes warm. About 20-30 minutes later the pilot came on the PA to brief us on what happened. Turns out we blew an air conditioning unit which affects the ability of the plane to maintain cabin pressure automatically, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what the pilot said.
This was not a total pressure failure – masks did not deploy – but it was enough that it raised concerns from the crew about the welfare of the passengers. I managed to record most of the briefing and included it below:
We’ve switched over to the manual system and that’s settled the cabin pressure down now. We do apologize for that. You may have noticed a little bit of a pressure change in your ears throughout the time that it was occurring. At the moment we’re cruising at 37,000 feet; with everything settled down we plan to continue to New York. I would ask you though if you’ve had any adverse effects at all from the changes in pressurization please do talk to the cabin crew.
At the moment progress-wise we are cruising at 37,000 feet and UK time we are estimating arrival at 22:45.
In the mean time, as I said, apologies for the pressurization fluctuations in the cabin, everything is now settled down. If you have any concerns or had any adverse effects please do talk to the cabin crew. Thank you.
I was hoping to speak with the pilots about the circumstances of the incident after we landed. The cabin crew explained that wasn’t going to happen due to filling out paperwork and such and after 26 days on the road I was ready to let that go. We were met by BA representatives in the jetbridge on arrival, however. I asked a couple of them to explain what happened and this was where I think things failed the most. Rather than answering my question of what exactly failed on the plane they kept asking me if I was okay and if I wanted to talk to anyone about it. Despite my saying over and over again that I’m fine and that I basically sit on planes for a living.
I was given a letter reminding me that “The Captain was in regular contact with our engineering team and was always in complete control of the aircraft” but zero additional information. I understand that having a completed analysis 4 hours after the incident is never going to happen. But being able to say what part failed or what the indicator was to the pilots would have been useful. I assume that I’ll get an answer from them eventually or that it’ll show up in AVHerald.com. But the handling on arrival was not great.
Also, the return flight, BA176/23JUL, was cancelled and the plane appears to still be in JFK. So clearly more than just a little problem, but also not a big one.
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