Weird ‘04 stories border on fiction

OK, so the Boeing Co. tanker deal was sordid and unseemly. It’s strange to contemplate that the in-production 777-200LR will be able to connect just about any two cities on the planet. It was odd that Boeing predicted it would sell 200 7E7s this year – and then didn’t. And this whole A350 thing from Airbus is a mystery.

But what were the really weird aerospace stories of 2004 – the ones that left us all wondering whether we’d been caught in some sort of “Star Trek” tachion flux and transported by undiscovered laws of quantum physics to some bizarro parallel universe?

Here are some of my favorites:

Modern art – In November, the Museum of Modern Art in New York reopened with an unusual item to grace the entrance to its architecture and design gallery – a fan blade from a General Electric GE90-115B engine, the same one that powers Boeing’s ultralong-range 777-300ER and 777-200LR.

The 4-foot-tall, twisted, black carbon-fiber blade “captures the whole essence of flight and technology,” museum curator Terence Riley said.

Actually, what it was intended to do was capture big amounts of air and scoop them into the jet’s engine, according to GE.

Pass the cocktail sauce – The government of Thailand blocked Thai Airways from ordering more than $2 billion worth of Airbus jets, including a half-dozen A380s, in a dispute over European Union rules blocking frozen shrimp exports from Thailand.

Shrimp are a big deal in Thailand, which claims to be the world’s largest exporter of frozen shrimp and prawns.

As the year winds to an end, negotiators have hammered out a compromise that could resolve the crustacean crisis and let the A380 order go ahead. But it’s got to be approved by the EU first, according to Reuters.

Lord of the Dance – RyanAir chief executive Michael O’Leary spoke to Boeing workers in Renton in October. I wasn’t there, and am I ever sorry.

The Telegraph newspaper in London had a reporter in Seattle that week. It said O’Leary (who is not related to the Herald photographer of the same name) started out by saying he’d promised Boeing brass that he’d watch his language.

“I promise I won’t say anything like “screw Airbus’ or ‘bleep the French,’” he said.

According to the Telegraph, the Boeing workers “were charmed by the Irishman’s apparent inability to take himself or RyanAir too seriously,” the newspaper said. “The airline industry is full of bull—-ers, liars and drunks. We excel at all three in Ireland,’ he told them.”

O’Leary “carried on for an hour, discussing the merits of cricket and baseball and why Guinness tastes like it does,” the Telegraph said.

He continued: “I can’t fly the bloody things. I can’t even turn them on.” But “I will do Riverdance,” he crowed, before launching into a high-kicking, arms-to-the-sides dance that brought down the house.

And if that weren’t enough, here’s my pick for the strangest story of the year:

Intruder alert! Intruder alert! – In October, alert airport security personal evacuated the terminal in the Australian resort city of Mackay when someone noticed an object humming and vibrating in a trash can.

It turned out to be what police officially called an “adult novelty item.” You know, the kind they sell at Lovers Package.

Let’s let the Australian Associated Press tell the tale:

“Cafeteria manager Lynne Bryant said her staff had been cleaning tables when they noticed a strange humming noise coming from the rubbish bin.

“‘It was rather disconcerting when the rubbish bin started humming furiously,’ she said. ‘We called security, and next minute everybody was being evacuated while they checked it out.’”

According to the news service, several hundred people, including passengers on two arriving and departing flights, were evacuated from the terminal for about 45 minutes while a positive identification was made.

Bryant said that “in retrospect, the humming sounded exactly like a vibrator – but it was better to be safe then sorry.”

“You can’t afford to take chances,” she said.


Here’s wishing you and yours a safe 2005.

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or

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