Ryanair’s route via Rome to Damascus

Strange and wonderful things are happening.


Ryanair is saying nice things about its pilots (some of). Has the company’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, been walking the road to Damascus recently?


Thinking back to O’Leary quotations about his pilot workforce only about three years ago, adjectives like “overpaid” were juxtaposed with words like “wingeing” and “workshy”. Suddenly descriptions of his pilots include words like ”skilled” and “valuable”. But why? Especially about the crew that was in charge when this (below) happened.


Ah, yes. The results of the 10 November birdstrike on final approach to Rome Ciampino. Despite the Boeing 737-800′s crunched left main gear and damaged belly, you can see from that previous blog on the subject that Ryanair’s pilots are a pretty competent bunch, so they must have faced a real problem. More of that later.


Anyway, O’Leary sent his best wishes, and a team of senior staff, to Ryanair’s Frankfurt Hahn base to congratulate the pilots and cabin crew for a job well done. I don’t have the names of the two cabin crew in the picture below, but the others are (L to R) First Officer Alexander Vet, the airline’s chief pilot Ray Conway (in civvies), Ryanair’s director of safety Michael Horgan, and the flight’s commander Capt Frederic Colson.  





 It was Horgan who issued the congratulations:


“After more than 50 years in the industry I know that there is no substitute for reality and we are proud that this emergency situation, shortly before landing in Rome,  brought all our crew’s skill, professionalism and training successfully into practice. To bring the aircraft to a safe landing following a major loss of power on both engines required a level of composure and skill that is a credit to both Frederic and  Alexander and underscores  the exceptional flying standards that have always been the hallmark of  Ryanair’s safety and training operations.”


I’m still flummoxed about how fluffy O’Leary seems to have become. But maybe he hasn’t. Maybe he sent Conway and Horgan because he would not have been able to get the words past his gritted teeth. Somehow I prefer to continue thinking of him that way than to admit that Conway and Horgan at least had been given his blessing when they congratulated the worthy crew.


But what did the pilots face? A “murmuration of starlings” is the true answer. Ryanair sent me a descriptive definition of this phenomenon that the crew first saw about 25sec before touchdown, where they attempted to initiate a go-around and then abandoned it because of a dramatic loss of power. Here’s the description:


A starling flock is called a murmuration, a word that perfectly describes the rustle of thousands of pairs of wings. Starling murmurations are one of the most dazzling displays in the natural world, as the flock changes shape, one minute like a colossal wisp of smoke, the next a tornado, the next a thundercloud blocking the light.” 

2 Responses to Ryanair’s route via Rome to Damascus

  1. Robin Metcalf 23 December, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    I’d call a murmuration “A low continuous indistinct sound; often accompanied by movement of the lips without the production of articulate speech”.

    ‘Not quite’ the words he used but was O’leary not giving it his blessing not all that long ago?

  2. Ukads 23 December, 2008 at 8:56 pm #

    I’d call a murmuration:- “A low continuous indistinct sound; often accompanied by movement of the lips without the production of articulate speech”.

    Not quite the words ‘he’ used but was O’leary not giving this his blessing not all that long ago?