Davies: When I really thought I was about to die. On a TWA flight out of Lisbon, the captain started to announce problems with one of the engines. First was an apology that would delay us into New York; then we might have to stop at the Azores; then we would have to. Then the captain suggested that on landing at the Azores, we should practice the emergency evacuation procedures “just in case an engine catches fire.” I realized the problem was serious, unconnected with the engines. Hydraulic, electric, or other system defects would not demand such an emergency. I then suspected their might be a bomb on board. When, on approach to Santa Maria airport, he instructed us to be down the slides and out of the airplane in 90 seconds, I mentally said goodbye to my family.
It had been a false alarm, but this was not made certain until a U.S. bomb squad arrived from Madrid to search the airplane, baggage, and us.
A & S: What will you miss most when you retire from NASM as the air transport go-to guy?
Davies: At the risk of sounding unforgivably banal, the professional companionship of my curatorial colleagues. Serving under five museum directors over the years, we have often held different views and sometimes strongly expressed them, but I do not remember a single harsh word.
A & S: And least?
Davies: I shall happily say farewell to the lack of public transport in the Washington suburbs, which forces everyone to spend half their lives in cars.