Royals forced to flee SAS flight

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Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit were among 135 passengers ordered to evacuate an Oslo-bound Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight when it suddenly ran into trouble on take-off Sunday morning. The drama at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport left all of them shaken but SAS denied there was any real danger.

Witnesses said Crown Princess Mette-Marit appeared "stressed" after their SAS flight had to abort take-off, but she managed to "tweet" about the experience not long after. PHOTO: Screen grab/twitter.com

Passengers told Norwegian media that the drama began as SAS flight #1462 started rolling down the runway at Copenhagen’s international airport after undergoing a de-icing procedure. As the aircraft gained speed, passengers heard a loud blast from one of the engines and the cabin filled with a strong smell of smoke.

“We were just about to take off when we heard this loud explosion,” passenger Tone Helmersen told VG Nett. “The plane shook hard and the engine stopped. There was a lot of smoke, then the power went out and the plane stopped sideways on the runway.”

Both Helmersen and other passengers reported that “a bit of panic” broke out and “people started getting up, suddenly a flight attendant announced we all had to get out.”

The emergency exits opened, the evacuation chutes inflated and passengers were ordered to leave their carry-on bags and slide down, out and away from the aircraft. At that point, Helmersen said she wasn’t aware the royal couple was also on board and ordered to evacuate.

She and others soon found themselves mingling with Mette-Marit and Haakon on the tarmac, though, while they waited for a bus to take them to the terminal. Another passenger, Knut Marius Sture, said SAS crews took care of everyone on an equal basis and the royal couple didn’t get any special royal treatment.

“They stood there on the tarmac along with the rest of us,” Sture told NRK. Helmersen said Crown Prince Haakon tried to keep people’s spirits up, smiling and even making a few jokes. “Mette-Marit seemed much more stressed,” Helmersen later told NRK.

The crown princess is known for suffering from a fear of flying and has tried to tackle it over the years through, among other things, counseling and special escorts on board. She managed to send out a message on the social media site she recently started using, Twitter, not long after the dramatic incident Sunday morning.

“Ok, my morning turned out a bit more exciting than expected.. Phew.. #still not entirely over flightphobia,” wrote Crown Princess Mette-Marit in English on Twitter.

She later wrote a new message, this time in Norwegian, extending “warm thanks” to the SAS crew “who took good care of all the passengers.” She called the SAS crew members “people who make you feel safe.”

The couple recently attended the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, and had been in Copenhagen over the weekend, according to a palace spokesman, to celebrate Danish Crown Prince Mary’s 40th birthday. They were heading home to Oslo on the early Sunday morning flight.

SAS officials claimed that passengers were never in any real danger but the pilot chose to evacuate the aircraft. “There was smoke in the cabin as a result of an engine breakdown,” said Monica Hovland of SAS. “It’s too early to say what caused the problem with the engine. It will be investigated. We chose to evacuate and the passengers will be taken care of by our personnel, they can also speak with the captain and with psychologists.”

Hovland acknowledged that some passengers clearly felt the situation was “very dramatic” while others were more calm. All were being transferred to other flights later in the day.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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