You May Have Wondered What Happened – Or It’s Entirely Possible That You Were Preoccupied At The Time, Which Is Perfectly OK Then – In Any Event, Well, Here’s
THE LAST SIX MINUTES OF DOOMED FLIGHT 411
As everyone now knows, doomed Flight 411 never made it from Pittsburgh to Dayton on June 3rd. At 5:05 p.m., just 60 miles short of an arrival gate packed with family, friends and hangers-on, the experimental Boeing 797A minijumbo-jet smashed into a large high school near the southwest corner of the I-270 Columbus bypass. Authorities are still mystified by the crash, which claimed the lives of 14 crew members and 206 passengers, for a grand total of 220 innocent victims of whom a great many were as close to innocent as possible during a historical epoch in which ethics are considered arbitrary. Killed virtually instantaneously were an Indiana state representative, a promising starting quarterback for a two-year technical college in Mexico and the best-selling author of a series of books on beekeeping. (Miraculously, no one was at the high school at the time because state budget cuts had eliminated extracurricular activities.)
Despite painfully reconstructing the remains of the fuselage, which was consumed in a fireball that could be seen as far away from the crash site as the westbound lanes of Interstate 70, an FAA spokesman recently told a press conference: “As far as we can tell, Flight 411 never suffered any trouble in flight. In fact, scientifically speaking, it should still be en route to Cox International Airport right now.”
The mystery surrounding the disaster in no small part stems from the fact that rescue workers and investigators were unable to locate either the data or voice recorders – the notorious fluorescent-orange “black boxes” that are specially built to withstand the stress of impact – on Flight 411. That riddle came to an end one month ago, when this correspondent happened upon a charred metal hunk being offered for sale by a drunken derelict on the gritty streets of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. Immediately recognizing the cockpit voice recorder for what it was – and what it was was a hunk of history, a grim epitaph to mass death – I spent a tax-deductible twenty dollars to obtain the answers – finally! – to what caused the crash, and how its victims spent their last six minutes on the Planet Earth that they all loved so much.
Following is an exact transcript of the last six minutes of doomed Flight 411. What you are about to read is a disturbing, yet poignant reminder of what we’re all capable of when everything we know is about to come to a gruesome end. For if the philosopher is correct, an entire universe of perception dies when a person dies, and when more than 220 people die, an equivalent number of universes probably die with them, if that’s the way it works.
The principal voices on the recorder include pilot James Shapiro, 44, a veteran of the 1980s bombing of Tripoli, co-pilot Edward Schevernazdve, 35, no relation to the president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia and engineer Tom “Tommy” de la Renta, 27, of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. Flight 411 was to have been Tommy’s last since the engineer’s job was to be downsized by airline restructuring.
4:59PM – ALL INSTRUMENTS NORMAL
CO-PILOT: I’m thinking that maybe at this point we should have some clever repartee reminiscent of the tipping sequence at the beginning of “Reservoir Dogs.”
ENGINEER: Who are you talking to? There are three of us in here.
CO-PILOT: It’s rhetorical. You, him, whatever. Listen, the bonobo is dead.
PILOT: No shit. Really?
[FLIGHT 411 MOVED INTO THE DAYTON AIR TRAFFIC VECTOR AT THIS POINT.] DAYTON TOWER: Welcome 411, go to 15,000, clear to descend 13,000 in 2. Runway assignment later.
CO-PILOT: Roger Dayton, go to 13,000.
DAYTON TOWER: Negative on 13,000, remain 15,000, clear to descend. Hey, I take it you heard about the bonobo.
CO-PILOT: Yes, of course – it was on the “Today” show.
CO-PILOT: It’s a large, streamlined sear bird of the family Sulidae, called gangets in northern waters. They have heavy bodies, long, pointed wings – no, wait, that’s a booby. This thing doesn’t have bonobos.
PILOT: Technology sucks.
ENGINEER: Oh, sure, blame the South Asians. I should report you.
PILOT: I have nothing against those people. Honestly! I think it’s just great that the same agile hands that weave enormous carpets at the age of 12 become computer coders at the age of 21. It’s splendid, poetic even…
[INTERFERENCE HERE–FAA SAYS ITS LEON PANETTA MAKING “SOME SORT OF OBSERVATION,” OR POSSIBLY CHASTISING AN UNDERLING FOR SOME OFFENSE, REAL OR PERCEIVED.]…Julian calendar, and that’s about it, period, end quote.
CO-PILOT: Could we please change the subject? It’s getting a tad tedious, and to be honest, I find the atmosphere, involving three sweaty guys cramped together in a poorly-ventilated metal cabin flying through space at hundreds of miles per hour, both confining and uncomfortable, both at the same time.
CO-PILOT: Quit agreeing with me all the time. Anyone who thinks it’s perfectly OK for leap years to come every four years, except at century’s end, and then with the exception of every fourth century’s end, is, in my opinion, less than ignorant. Of course, that’s what you get for attending Colgate.
ENGINEER: Absolutely. Right-o.
CO-PILOT: If that chick told you she’s a third Hispanic, she’s a total, like, liar. That’s all I want to say. No offense.
STEWARDESS: Excuse me, but some of the passengers in first-class say they smell smoke.
PILOT: What are you doing in here?
[HERE STEWARDESS ENTERS THE CABIN.] PILOT: Oh, there we go. Why, hi there, Brenda the Stewardess! How have you been?
BRENDA THE STEWARDESS: Why, never better, Mr. Pilot Guy.
PILOT: Do you have something to report?
BRENDA THE STEWARDESS: All conditions normal, sir.
PILOT [ON PUBLIC ADDRESS]: All righty, folks, this is your captain speaking. We’ll be passing over the Great Teton Dam, the Pyramid at Cheops and the TransAmerica Pyramid during our flight path today. Drinks are complimentary in the bathroom, $4 in the confessional.
5:00 PM – ALL INSTRUMENTS NORMAL
CO-PILOT: Going down to 13,000.
ENGINEER: I thought we had another minute.
CO-PILOT: I swear to God, one of these days someone’s gonna kick your fucking ass. Goddamn douchebag! Sorry…something about being inside a cockpit makes me want to curse without provocation.
ENGINEER: Come on, you mondoscumfuck – I’m ready for you! I’ll eat your fucking heart! Oh, sorry about that.
[COMMERCIAL BREAK: PepsiCo/Mountain Dew (30 seconds); Lorillard Brands (1 minute); Jamaica Tourist Board (30 seconds); UPN Network Promo for “Moesha” and “Martin” (45 seconds); Committee to Re-elect the President ’72 (1 minute)] PILOT [ON INTERCOM]: When you last left the flight data recorder, our flight engineer had threatened to assault our co-pilot. But while you were gone, both men shook hands, became friends, and admitted a certain amount of sexual tension. They’re now shopping for a home together, assuming they can pull together the necessary financing.
ENGINEER: Hey! I thought we weren’t going to mention any of that.
PILOT [STAGE LEFT, LEANING OVER TO CHECK FLASHING RED LIGHT]: Hmmm…”total cabin depressurization.” Is that bad? [HE SOUNDS CONCERNED.] ENGINEER: Fuel looking good, E&M fine. Maybe it’s a hole.
PILOT: If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up. And apologize to – hey, what’s your name again?
ENGINEER: Who do you want to apologize? Him or me?
DAYTON TOWER: Hey, you’re at 13,000! I’ve got you tracked on an intercept course with an A-400. Pull up! Pull up!
CO-PILOT: Why go up just to come back down again thirty seconds later? Oh, wow.
[FLIGHT 411 PASSES A TWIN-ENGINE CESSNA BY 3,600 FEET; NO COLLISION OCCURS.] CO-PILOT: Dayton Tower! This is mayday! We have impact with target! We’re going down! Ohmyfuckingchristshitfucklickassdamndamndamn!
PILOT: You are soooo gay.
[LAUGHTER ERUPTS IN COCKPIT] 5:01 PM – ALL INSTRUMENTS NORMAL
[AT THIS POINT, FLIGHT 411 HAS INADVERTENTLY ENTERED AIRSPACE CONTROLLED BY WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE IN VANDALIA, OHIO.] WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE TOWER: Target at 31,000, vector 4-2, please identify.
CO-PILOT: [STILL GUFFAWING, CHUCKLING, GIGGLING, CHORTLING AND CACKLING ALSO] Wright-Patterson, this is Consolidated Amalgacorp Airlines Flight 411. Dayton has us on their screen.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE TOWER: Unidentified target at 31,000, we repeat, F-16s are en route to intercept. You will, repeat will, be shot down unless you land immediately at the nearest available landing strip and surrender to military personnel.
CO-PILOT: Um, Wright-Patt, it’s time to like, stop it.
PILOT: I think they’re just funning. You know those Latinos, they like their beer. Every night, it’s tall-boys this, tall-boys that. (pause) All this racist shit is making me thirsty. [SMACKS LIPS FOR EFFECT. HIS COMRADES RESPECT HIM, YET THEY FRET THAT HE MAY BE UNSTABLE. THE CO-PILOT, FOR THE FIRST TIME, RESOLVES TO KILL HIM AT THE FIRST SIGN OF TROUBLE.] WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE TOWER: The President has authorized termination of your unauthorized flight. You have entered restricted airspace. We have you locked in. This will be your final warning. May God have mercy on –
ENGINEER: Yo, Eddie – you’re on the wrong channel.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE TOWER: Roger on that. Redirecting launched missiles.
DAYTON TOWER: We just lost an L-1011 twelve clicks north of you. We don’t know what’s going on, they just dropped off radar. Ta-ta, cactus boys!
CO-PILOT: I’m gonna miss that bonobo. That’s for sure.
5:02 PM – ALL INSTRUMENTS NORMAL
PILOT: Look at all that corn. Amber waves of –
[COMMERCIAL BREAK: STATION PROMO FOR “ANNE FRANK 2–BACK FROM AUSCHWITZ”
VOICE-OVER: “They thought they’d gotten rid of the little Dutch girl once and for all…but they were wrong! It’s 10 years later, and Not-So-Little Orphan Annie is back for revenge! Catch Anne Frank 2, this Sunday at 8 eastern, 7 central.”] ENGINEER: I know I’ll [I’LL IS EMPHASIZED WITH GRAVITAS] be watching.
PILOT: As will I…I wanna see German heads roll!
[HERE THERE IS A 12-SECOND GAP ON THE TAPE] CO-PILOT: I don’t know what to tell them! Just go back there and figure it out!
UNIDENTIFIED STEWARD: I’m filing a grievance with the union.
PILOT: Attention, passengers, this is your captain speaking. We have just suffered a temporary decompression problem. We are going to be landing in just a few minutes. Please remain calm and prepare for a possible crash landing–[INEXPLICABLY, WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR LEON JAWORSKI APPEARS, THEN DISAPPEARS]–oxygen masks are right in front of you.
ENGINEER: We’re bleeding fuel. I think we have a freeze-up.
PILOT: Someone’s gotta go out and find what the hell’s going on.
ENGINEER: I’ll go!
CO-PILOT: No – I’m on my way.
ENGINEER: Dayton Tower, Dayton Tower, this is Flight 411, we are doomed, we have an emergency situation, we have smoke in the cockpit, we request immediate clearance.
DAYTON TOWER: We copy that. Go to 8,000 and prepare to land.
ENGINEER: Mayday, mayday! [THIS STUFF IS REALLY DRAMATIC, O.K.? PLEASE PUNCH UP, MAKE MORE RANDOMLY AMUSING –Eggers] 5:03 PM – ALTITUDE, VELOCITY FALLING
ENGINEER: What’s going on out there?
CO-PILOT: Looks like a bomb went off. There are bodies all over the place. I saw a baby – it – I thought it had been blown to bits, but it was just puke. Five rows – gone, just gone. There’s a ten-foot hole in the fuselage.
PILOT: Where – [STATIC] GERALD FORD: Our long national nightmare is over.
NEIL ARMSTRONG: One small step for me, one giant –
DEBORAH HARRY: It’s great to be back home at the Mudd Club!
[POSSIBLE RADIO INTERFERENCE – BROADCAST OF PRESLEY’S “IN THE GHETTO” PLAYS FOR 17 SECONDS HERE] ENGINEER: Pull up, pull up, pull up!
5:04 PM – ACCORDING TO FAA INVESTIGATORS, FLIGHT 411 CRASHED AT THIS POINT, KILLING ALL 220 PEOPLE ABOARD. AMAZINGLY, THE TAPE CONTINUES:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sure your parents won’t be home?
[18 MINUTE GAP APPEARS HERE] CO-PILOT: Oh, wow.
ENGINEER: Pull up, pull up, pull up!
DAYTON TOWER: Flight 411, this is Dayton. What is your status?
CO-PILOT: Give it a rest, willya?
ENGINEER: Aw, man…what a fucking bummer.
PILOT: Hey, I think we’re still recording!
ENGINEER: Think of it – for the first time in the human experience, we have the chance to inform those left behind about what comes next! We have the Big Answer to the Biggest Question of all! We know everything!
PILOT: That’s true…hi, everyone! Welcome from beyond the grave! Oooowoowoowooooooo –
CO-PILOT: Hey, look! There’s Billy Squier! I love his work!
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]
(C) 1994 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved