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Time is a Flat Circle, or: A Bad Smell Has Grounded A Plane Again


(Photo via Ben Carleton)

AS THE UNIVERSE'S PRIMARY CORRESPONDENT ON AEROPLANES THAT SMELL BAD COMING BACK TO EARTH EARLIER THAN INTENDED DUE TO THE SEVERITY OF THE SMELL INSIDE THEM, SOME NEWS: an aeroplane that smelled bad has come back to earth earlier than intended due to the severity of the smell inside it, this time at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Listen, it's not funny, it's not funny – 20-to-25 people had to be treated with oxygen for breathing problems, so it's not funny, like imagine being on an aeroplane, arguably one of the most claustrophic tubes the human body can be inserted into, and suddenly your breathing is impeded, and you are just gasping, honking at the scant amount of oxygen left in the small long room, hoping among hope it is you who steals the good air away from your fellow passengers and not the other way around, truly, truly nightmarish, so it's not funny – but also, on the other hand, if you look at it from a different angle, could it also be really really funny? They landed a plane because it smelled bad! My brother have you ever for even one second been on the Tube! Have you ever had to catch a Virgin Train anywhere! Come on!


Anyway the facts, duty-bound as we are to report them:

Crews were called out to Will Rogers World Airport (WRWA), around 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, due to a report of an inbound plane with an unknown odor coming from the cockpit.


A short time later, members of OKC Fire were requested to assist with patients at the airport due to breathing problems. 20-25 passengers on board a JetBlue flight were treated for breathing problems associated with an unknown odor on the plane.


Authorities later determined the odor came from the back of the JetBlue plane, instead of the front. The JetBlue plane was originally scheduled for travel from California to Florida. The flight was diverted to WRWA at 2:22 a.m., according to FlightAware. A plane from New York headed to WRWA to resume the flight.

Officials have not yet identified the odor.

Someone stank up a plane so bad it had to land. The stink was ethereal and uncapturable: they do not know whether the stink was at the front or from the back. Authorities do not know what the stink was, but they were too busy giving everyone oxygen to really think about it. So let's instead play…


  • Not shit. The authorities, recall, do not know what the bad smell is. Shit smells of shit. Everyone knows what shit smells like because they encounter shit every day. Shit comes out of them or they go in a public bathroom where someone else's shit is smeared on every available surface or, just sometimes, sometimes you will be walking down an inner-city street, near a grate or aircon outlet or something, and: ho man, a sudden waft of shit. So it is patently not shit, because if something smells of shit you know about it.


2. The smell was bad enough to render people ill. The only time a smell has overly made me ill is when I was 17 and clearing out the mugs and cups that had accumulated in my room and one mug of tea had gone down thru various stages of tea mould – first it gets a film, then sometimes the film goes green and/or orange, and then that crust goes black, slowly, and this particular one had bust thru the black layer, the death stage, and gone grey – and when I poured it into the sink some sort of spores came up and I immediately had to run outside to vomit. The neighbours saw me do this. It was a low point, the self-inflicted insta-vomit. You never really know a low point, when it's happening to you – sure, it feels low, but you don't know it's going to be your lowest, there's always the nagging suspicion worse is to come – but now with 13 years of hindsight I can say with safety: that was a low point.

But you cannot smuggle an old mug of fucked up tea onto an aeroplane. They literally have security checks and guards hired to make sure you don't do that. They would stop you at the airport and ask you what you are doing with all those spores.

So unless – and I'm spitballing here – so say, for example, you made a snack for the plane. A sandwich, or something, an apple, a little bag of crisps. You sealed this in a Tupperware for freshness. But then you stored that Tupperware next to, for whatever reason, a lunch you packed six months ago and did not eat. When you dash out the door, to your doomed flight, you pick up the wrong Tupperware, so now you are accidentally carrying an excessive amount of mould. Nobody checks your sweet Tuppy at the airport. Nobody knows that you carry with you death and disease. Then halfway thru the flight you open your Tup-Tup for a sweet bite of sandwich and: you are overwhelmed suddenly with decay and a bad gas. And all 25 people around you instantly gag and faint. That's a possibility.


3. Other bad smells. A vast majority of the bad smells I have huffed on in my life have been from things burning, so for instance a bin, or human hair, or a black plastic sack. Those things really smell. But again security checks at airports would wheedle out any sort of fire-making device, such as lighters and matches. You could sneak one through, but presumably you would only be using it in flight to have a crafty cigarette in the bogs. And unless that went really wrong – you dropped a lit match down the toilet, for instance, and set fire to a mound of clotted toilet paper and human waste – then you really have no need to make a noxious smell with the apparatus available to you. Like why would you do that. There's no motive. I'm ruling that out.

4. A complex combination of acids? Idk I suppose this would edge the bad smell over from "a funny story about a plane that landed early! Haha it smelled bad" to "low-to-medium domestic terrorism", which is always a fine line to cross, and again we would have to battle with security, but yes: I suppose there is a chance someone smuggled a series of acids or whatever onto the plane and combined them to make a sort of noxious moving gas, and they did that for???? Some reason????

5. Oh my god, what if it was a stinkbomb What if it was just a simple stinkbomb, set off by a child? Just a simple toy from a toy shop, detonated at just the right time mid-flight? What if all these adults are collapsing around, wheezing, gasping at the air, because a boy set off a stinkbomb? Imagine how bad the kid would feel. You would never get over that, as a child. You would never be able to move on. You would always, forever, know your childhood mischievousness had landed a plane. That would be the day your innocence shatters, forever.


6. Slimer, the ghost from Ghostbusters Listen here's my theory: what do we know about the smell? It stinks bad enough to ground a plane (Slimer is a ghost made of garbage and gas and food. Slimer also has a butt.). What else do we know? The odour was impossible to detect because it kept moving around (Slimer, a mobile ghost who can flit thru walls leaving patches of slime behind him, can also move.) I am afraid the only sensible conclusion is that Slimer from Ghostbusters was on this plane. Authorities will never solve this mystery because they never account for ghosts.

I suppose the main worry is this always seems to happen on planes. There is just something about them: those sealed tubes, so many miles in the air, floating with a combination of roaring engines and simple aerodynamics and magic. In a car, someone can open a window. A train, too. You rarely have to worry about bad smells on a ship. But planes: planes, the most expensive and wildly improbably of all the transport forms, the one we can barely believe is real, truly, the future, every time we step onto one to fly: planes can be undone by their Achilles heel, which is 'just really fucking stinking of shit or something at least as bad as shit' sometimes.

Well: more from our column "Hey? What Stank So Bad That Plane Landed?" next time it happens. Hope everyone feels better soon. Bye



Someone Did a Shit So Bad On a British Airways Plane That It Had to Turn Around and Come Back Again

Anus Horribilis: A Year Ago Today, Someone Did a Shit So Bad it Grounded a Plane

Questions That Still Need Answering: Two Years On from the Poo Plane