Monday, September 1, 2008

Snakes (and more) on planes...

Did you see the report in the Wall Street Journal about the problems airlines are having with varmints?

It's a piece written by Daniel Michaels with this headline: "The Cute, the Hairy and the Scaly: Pests that Ground 747s."

Apparently, in spite of all the combined efforts of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the ACLU, UAW, AFL-CIO, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Sacco, and Vanzetti…despite ALL their efforts, there is a squadron of mice, rats, spiders, snakes, gerbils, and ferrets that is effectively bringing modern air travel to a screeching halt.

Paul Hayes, director of flight safety at a British aviation consulting firm, says, "If rats gnaw on a cable, who knows what they're going to do?" You see…that's the concern. You've got this 100-ton, $200 million aircraft, and if a mouse gets loose in there, most-assuredly havoc will be wreaked. "In July 2002, a pit bull terrier escaped from its cage in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight from San Diego to New York, chewed up parts of the plane and gnawed on electrical cables as thick as a garden hose. The Boeing 757 was out of service for NINE DAYS of repairs." (Of course the really sad news there is that the dog apparently didn't make it THROUGH the electric cable he was chewing on. THAT would have brought a stop to his rampage, right there. ZZZZzzzzttt!)

"On February 22nd, a spider fell from an overhead luggage bin as passengers exited an Air France flight to Manchester, England, delaying the Airbus' return to Paris by five hours. [And here's my favorite line] The spider wasn't found, but witnesses said it was big and hairy."

The first option, whenever a varmint gets loose in a plane, is to try to trap the critter. But if all attempts at a live capture fail, then they bring out the big guns and go for…suffocation. Airbus publishes an 8-page document on how to do this. First, it takes three hours to plug all the vents. There are diagrams on how to build covers for an air valve and a sliding cockpit window. Then, they take tanks of liquid carbon dioxide, vaporize it, and pump it into the plane…and we're talking more than 2 tons of the gas. It takes over 5 hours to get enough CO2 in the joint to kill anything. It costs up to $11,500 for the whole procedure, and then, AND THEN, if they can't FIND the CARCASS, it stinks up the whole plane as it slowly rots away, maybe causing localized corrosion, not to mention the attraction of flies and the resulting maggots. (Have you had dinner yet?)

You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm making this stuff up. Here, let me quote the article: "Every year, planes around the globe are held up by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Wait a minute…what did that say? "Every year, planes around the globe are HELD UP by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Held up? Now, this story has just taken a turn toward the sinister. Up till now, I thought we were talking about normal, understandable animal behavior. You know, the happy-go-lucky, merry mix-ups that occur when humans and animals share the same space. But this…this holding up of planes? This is something entirely different.

Somewhere, somehow, these supposedly LOWER life-forms are getting organized. Organized as in "organized crime" organized! Planes around the globe are being held up by mice and rats and whatnot.

[Squeaky voice:] "Alright, all you passengers. Listen to me. Do what I say, and nobody gets hurt. I've got razor-sharp teeth here and disease-infested claws, and I know how to use them! Now very slowly, and very carefully—no fast moves now—I want everybody to give me their cheese. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon…this isn't up for discussion. Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. I want the cheese and I want it now! Just put it in the bag here."

Oh, friends, run for the hills. We are outnumbered, and the critters are on the offensive. Life as we know it on Planet Earth will never be the same again! Planet of the Apes, here we come!

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