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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The strangest things people have got up to on planes

Most of us grin and bear the tedium of long flights. Most of us, that is, but not all...

Hate flying? Part of the reason might be that there is so little to do. The choice is usually a straight one between eating a meal that only barely scrapes into the category of food, reading a book, dawdling to the toilet or
 selecting from one of seven Kate Hudson movies on the inflight entertainment system.

But not everyone is prepared to settle for such mundanity mid-air. The halcyon days of striking up a cigar before ogling miniskirt-clad air hostesses may be over, but some enterprising passengers have found ways to liven up the whole airborne experience.
In this alternative world, flying is an anarchic round of booze ups, push ups and hook ups, as often as not involving rich and famous passengers (and the odd pilot).


In February 2008, a video was leaked on the internet featuring a French air hostess performing a striptease for her pilot. Allegedly shot by other crew members on a flight to London, the video showed the saucy stewardess putting on a bit of a show in the cockpit.

Such hi-jinks among the crew are worrying enough when they're supposed to be concentrating on turbulence or "chicken or fish?", but at least most sky-high workers are discreet enough to be rarely caught. When passengers get the same idea, it's far more, er, in your face. A flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles last year was diverted to Albuquerque after a 50-year-old man removed all his clothes mid-flight and refused to put them back on again.

A dancing (drama) queen

The ever-popular Paul McCartney divorcee Heather Mills thought she'd win over passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to London in 2007 by putting on a dance spectacular in mid-air. Scheduled as a contestant on the US show Dancing with the Stars, she had decided to get in some practice when the plane's inflight entertainment system broke down. By all accounts, the other passengers preferred staring at blank screens.

Hair Force One

The former US president Bill Clinton didn't win many friends in 1993 when he decided to have a haircut onboard the presidential plane, Air Force One. The only problem was that it was still on the tarmac at Los Angeles airport, and two runways had to be shut down to accommodate his trim at the hands of a Beverly Hills stylist.

Later research showed that his grooming demands didn't delay flights at LAX - it was a quiet period and planes were simply switched to the other two runways - but the onboard snip didn't do Clinton any favours when the press got hold of the story.

A nuclear grade domestic

In April last year, Japanese news sources reported on a row that broke out on a flight between Shanghai and Haneda. During preparations for takeoff, a couple had started shouting and screaming at each other, their argument quickly descending into violence.

Fellow passengers reported that the woman hit her husband in the face with a hard object, drawing blood, and then continued to hammer away at him. Poor hubby seems to have got the raw end of the deal - he was removed from the flight while the woman and her children were allowed to continue their journey to Japan.

Bath time

A first-time flyer caused something of a queue for the toilets in September 2007 when he tried to have a bath on a Chinese domestic flight. Crew realised something was wrong when the queue of weak-bladdered passengers started to snake down the aisle and water began to seep under the door.

Mr Jin Sheng was found inside, naked from the waist up and trying to give himself a sponge bath. He later said he'd gone without for a week and saw the hot tap as an excellent opportunity to spruce himself up.

Cabin crew capers

Airlines no longer like to portray female cabin crew as sex objects - unlike in the 1960s when most passengers were male businessmen and hemlines were raised as high as possible - but some passengers still like to try. The most notorious attempt in recent years was on the part of the actor Ralph Fiennes, who wooed a Qantas stewardess, Lisa Robertson, on a flight from Darwin to Mumbai. Robertson was sacked after attending to her English Patient a little too closely in the toilet.

Applying to the Mile High Club

Of course, Fiennes isn't the only person to have indulged in a spot of inflight eroticism. It's just that VIPs create more of a splash when they get caught. Among these high-flyers is someone who, as an airline owner, probably now knows better. The Virgin head honcho, Richard Branson, admits he lost his airborne virginity at the age of 19 with a married woman.

  Trouser 'adjustment'

An Australian passenger, Simone Holt, got a nasty surprise when she woke up on her flight from Brisbane to Darwin - her neighbour was making a solo attempt to join the Mile High Club.

Lucas Steven Knudson was caught red (and sweaty)-handed getting up to no good under the tray table. He was later escorted off the plane and arrested, trying to defend his actions in court by saying that his trousers were too tight and needed adjusting. For four minutes. Needless to say, Knudson was found guilty.

Drinking records

Although he has never spoken about the incident, the Australian cricketer David Boon is possibly more famous worldwide for his legendary beer consumption on one Sydney to London flight than for his on-field exploits.

According to Boon's teammates, the portly batsman set out to break an unofficial team record of 44 375ml cans of premium strength beer. Most accounts agree he smashed it with a seriously extraordinary 52 "tinnies".

Kids in the cockpit

It would never happen these days, due to security concerns, but in the past it was quite a common occurrence for pilots to invite children up to the cockpit. There, the men (invariably) in charge would show the kids how the plane was operated. These very junior flying crew might even be allowed to sit in the pilot's seat and put their hands on the controls.

Alas, such capers are a thing of the past - rarely is anybody but crew allowed into the cockpit these days, and the door is locked while the plane is in the air. Aspiring pilots of any age shouldn't despair, however. You can still get close to the experience by jumping into a simulator - a new one recently opened in the Bluewater shopping centre.

Suspicious smoke trails

"Smoking or non-smoking?" Such questions are now a thing of the past in the world of air travel. Every big airline in the world has a no-smoking policy. In the past, however, passengers would merrily light up any manner of nicotine inhalant, from cigarettes to pipes and cigars, and proceed to spread cancerous fumes throughout the cabin. Smokers report that it was a very civilised way to watch the world go by.

Some people try to relive those stale-smoke-stinking bygone days while hunched in the aeroplane toilet or, like the American comedian Ron White a couple of years ago, go one step further. He was arrested as he walked off his private plane in Florida last year after smoking marijuana throughout his flight. Apparently the fug was so bad the pilots had to put their oxygen masks on.

A PM doing push-ups

Not everyone uses their private plane as a place for nefarious goings-on. Australia's dull-as-cardboard prime minister, Kevin Rudd, claims he uses his time in mid-air to work out.

And that doesn't mean those ankle-turning exercises we're told to do in order to prevent deep vein thrombosis. "I do push ups on the plane," Rudd said of his fitness regime recently. "It keeps me sane." Warning: do not try while crammed on to a Ryanair flight.


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