RSA conference delegates were shaken but relieved after faulty hydraulics on flight BA287 to San Francisco on Saturday caused a British Airways pilot to turn around mid-Atlantic and make a dash to Shannon Airport for an emergency landing. On board the plane the atmosphere was tense after the pilot announced the diversion and that he had been forced to dump most of the fuel. People made small talk to cover their nervousness that the landing gear wouldn't come down and we would be forced to crash land. They also noted that some members of the normally unflappable cabin crew looked decidedly peaky as they advised everyone about how to adopt the brace position in case of an emergency landing.
The state of nervousness was not diminished by the sight of a fleet of fire engines and police with blue lights turning as we were landing at Shannon Airport. Luckily they weren't needed as we coasted gently to a stop.
Dr. Igor Muttik, a senior architect for McAfee Avert labs said:
"Sure we were worried and concerned. We were mostly joking, but it was a shared near death experience. But now it's pretty fun -- it's something to remember. It would be nice to be in San Francisco but Shannon is pretty fine."
Patricia Moll, European policy manager for Google, said:
"Fortunately we're all safe, however many passengers have lost luggage from Terminal 5, and we have had little to no support from British Airways staff here on the ground. We hope that BA will be able to sort this mess out."
Rupert Cook, Prevx corporate development director, who had been upgraded from premium economy due to an extremely full flight, said:
"The organisation outside the aircraft was a total fiasco, but the food and wine in business class was very nice."
Business consultant for Prevx Fernando Francisco said:
"I was a little bit worried, but you've got to keep calm. You did a good job of keeping me calm, too. I missed a connecting flight to Los Angeles, but I was also happy to spend a night in Shannon."
Delala Attiogbe, senior cite manager Genentech said:
"There was a frantic call for the seniour flight crew member. In terms of calming passengers there should have been other means to alert the senior member of crew. Shortly afterwards there was an announcement about there being a hydraulics issue which really wasn't specific, which didn't calm people down either. Luckily the problem wasn't as bad as it seemed. However, coordination of passengers to hotels was a little bit unsettling."
The flight had already been marred by a three and a half hour wait on the tarmac at Heathrow caused by the now notorious baggage system at Terminal Five. Baggage had been loaded that belonged to passengers who did not board, which then had to be unloaded. Unfortunately the cases had to be found by hand, which seriously set us back.
The luggage problems were compounded at Shannon Airport by there not physically being enough room to unload bags. Many of the passengers also found that their luggage had not been loaded onto the plane to begin with, so had to spend the night in the clothes they stood up in.
Most of the passengers were then taken by coach to the Clare Inn in Shannon, some of whom contemplated a night in the hotel lobby. However, at least two other hotels were also used.