Dhahran, Saudi Arabia - Rats! An Unwelcome Customer, by John Anderson (1978)

Dhahran in the Summer of 1978 was a busy station with daily Tri-stars to and from London, as well as four VC10s.  There was a constant flow of oil, defence and construction workers shuttling to and from Europe and the USA on leave and business.


The result was that most airlines enjoyed impressive seat factors coupled with sometimes alarming levels of over-bookings.  The vast majority of our passengers were in the Kingdom on bachelor status, without access to female company or alcohol for months on end and their only interest was in getting back home as quickly as possible. The Tristar used on the route was the short-haul (ex BEA) version, a type not ideal for a nonstop flight to London, especially with a full passenger load and high summer temperatures.  Flight planning this aircraft type was always a challenge and I recall one occasion when a delayed Tristar was flight planned from Dhahran to Athens with London as alternate!


On this particular day, a Tristar arrived from Bombay with a ‘mystery’ package on the flight deck.  A rat!   It had been spotted in the first class galley by the cabin crew, whereupon Dave the Flight Engineer had initially sprayed it with a fire extinguisher without any effect, before finally hitting it over the head.  Mr Ratty was presented to me in a sick bag, which was quickly and discreetly removed from the flight deck.  


Although there were suspicions that there might have been other rats on board, talk of searching for more or delaying the flight was quickly dismissed.  A potential revolt by a planeload of passengers who were determined to get back home whatever the circumstances was thereby avoided.  London Control Centre were not told of the incident until the flight was well on its way!

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