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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

Dealing with Zombies

VARIG, was the world-renowned Brazilian airline, until when it went bankrupt in 2006 (or was bankrupt, depending on the interlocutor). Almost all Brazilians, even those from the younger generations, have heard about VARIG, which is even the subject of song lyrics, poems, and a certain Brazilian pride abroad. It was synonymous with Brazil and maintained a high standard of technical efficiency and image. I think there was even jealousy of the Itamaraty, so glorious was VARIG and its offices around the world. Everyone who traveled at that time has one or more stories involving VARIG. In this chronicle, I record an episode that R.L. and I. (colleague who accompanied me on the trip), we witnessed aboard a plane from this company, on a Copenhagen-London flight, I believe around 1994, a time when I went to Denmark almost every year for the periodic meetings of the partners from the DHI (Danish Hydraulic Institute, chaired by Torben Sörensen) a group I was part of for 15 years, with great pride, in the early days of hydrodynamic modeling, guided by the genius of Michael Abbott. VARIG had a license (concession) to fly to Stockholm, passing through Copenhagen in the same way that SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) had for South America, to Santiago de Chile, passing through Rio and Buenos Aires. What they didn't have were enough passengers to fill the planes economically, hence the companies made agreements with each other (they still do today). I believe that VARIG flew two or three times a week to Stockholm, stopping in London and Copenhagen, SAS made another two or three such trips and BritshAirways was probably included in the rotation. With that, the flights were considered “joint, shared”, SAS, Britsh and VARIG could travel with passengers on any stretch and vice versa, even if they were boarding in Rio for Buenos-Aires or in London for Copenhagen or vice versa.


Another important preamble is about the habit that many Europeans already had and it still seems to me that they have to go get drunk in neighboring countries or almost. In fact, it is noted that Swedes go to Denmark, Norway, Germany and England, not with that objective, but with that consequence. And vice versa. With emphasis on the English, who, in addition to getting drunk, still create greater confusion because they go in groups and “in a group” everyone is braver. Therefore, when there is some excuse to go in a group, things get complicated. Football games, tennis matches, I think even chess is a pretext to join a caravan with: ethyl alcohol. And certainly some talc and other flours. An adjective was even created for the group: the “holligans”. So, we were taking off from Copenhagen for a long trip back to Brazil, stopping in London in a VARIG “equipment” (a huge Boeing I don't know what number), with three rows of seats and two aisles. Brazilians, a few 20%, about 30% of all nationalities and many English speaking in a loud voice, maybe 30% of the plane, with about 80% capacity. I think the plane had not yet stabilized at cruising altitude when a passenger, a large Englishman, let's call him JohnnieFighter (corresponds to JohnnieWalker) started to create problems in the starboard aisle (me and RL traveling on the port side). He got up from the chair, gestured, pushed others and the situation started to get out of control with several people in the surroundings getting up at the same time.


Then, the flight attendant (the flight attendant) approaches Johnnie from the front and faces him, drawing attention to himself. At this point, a flight attendant (stewardess) approaches Johnnie from behind and “poop”, slips a pulley, a bag, through the troublemaker’s head to his feet and pulls two strings wound helically in the bag that, in a way, slowed down the movements. of the “bagged” Johnnie. Finally, the bagged person is dropped in the corridor, taking some care so that he does not get hurt, but completely restrained and defeated, kicking, muffled screaming inside the bag, actually grunting, but the surprise was such that there was a silence followed by enthusiastic applause from the passengers.

A couple of Englishmen who were with Johnnie staged a protest, but the stewardess pointed out that she had more of those bags, the two calmed down by nature, the flight continued normally and smoothly to London, where the police were waiting for the mob. The bag with Johnnie was removed first by the famous English police, who showed nothing of kindness, having taken the countryman in the most “hurting” way possible (perhaps to show Johnnie the discontent with the negative propaganda for the English). The crew was changed because I remember that group had done Lon-Cop-Est-Cop-Lon. VARIG offered first class champagne and “hors-d’oeuvre” to all passengers on that leg on the London stopover, which took a little longer, but as the VIP room was good, no one complained.


I have never seen or heard of this “hustle” of people and the several times I told about this episode, I only knew one person who saw something similar, also on a plane, in the 60s. that freaks out, and aggressive zombies, minimizing violence and risks for both sides: what needs to be contained and what is in charge of doing so.








Miguel Fernandez y Fernandez

Consultant engineer and chronicler, Apr2023

5,350 touches all included

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