I think everybody must have gotten a good laugh when they read the news story “Passengers halt flight,” in the Toronto Star. Passengers on a charter flight from Italy to Cuba voted to turn back after noticing flames coming from an engine, overruling the pilot who insisted all was safe.

Shortly into the March 3 Air Europe flight from Milan to Varadero, Cuba, the 250 passengers began to notice flames coming from an engine in the left wing. Although the pilot said all was okay, that wasn’t good enough for the passengers, who voted overwhelmingly to turn back. The operating director of Air Europe told RAI television that while having an engine in flames was unsettling, the problem did not endanger the flight. The replacement flight left the next afternoon and is presumed to have arrived. (We haven’t heard any differently.)

Now you have a precedent – an Air Europe airline that takes a free vote from passengers whether to proceed to Cuba or not. I can imagine what went on.

“Get out of the cockpit! You’re not supposed to be in here. You’re just a passenger!”

“Hey, Mr. Captain, I just happened to notice thata, one of your engines is on, afire! The one to your left – flames are coming out of it!”

“So what. We got three other engines don’t we? I’ve often flown with one engine. I made it all the way to Argentina with just one engine. Perfect landing on the beach. Mind you I was supposed to be going to Havana.”

“You were just lucky that time, Mr. Captain. I begga you to go back to Milano and get a plane with four engines thata work.”

“Get out of here. You don’t give orders to the captain.”

“Mr. Captain, what about the co-pilot? What does he think?”

“The co-pilot here has never landed anything bigger than a Piper Cub.”

“I come back, Mr. Captain. I come back.”

The passenger disappears and comes back shortly afterwards.

“Mr. Captain, we’ve taken a vote of the passengers …”

The captain interrupts: “What’ve you got back there, a ballot box?”

“No, it was just a show of hands and de majority have voted to return to Milano and get a plane dat hasn’t got an engine on fire. Even the stewardesses – dey voted to go back to Milano”

“What? The stewardesses! What kind of loyalty is that?”

“There are two 300-pound guys back dere who say thata if you don’t wanta to fly the plane back to Milano – they will fly the plane back to Milano and they haven’t had a flying lesson in their lives”

“I hear you. Let’s head back to Milan.”

In a different vein, I noticed recently that almost everybody who is convicted of some crime wants to serve his or her sentence under house arrest. No more drafty, noisy prisons for them. Can you blame them? But what if Conrad Black is convicted for writing nasty things about Prime Minister Crouton and gets house arrest – what a dilemma for the courts. And for Conrad? What house to choose? Toronto? London? New York? Maybe he could spend a few months in all three of them.

Then I read in the paper that the federal Liberals were going to hire 5,000 income tax investigators to track down the unknown billions escaping government coffers in the underground economy. Finding Osama bin Laden will be an easy job compared to that. May I suggest where the federal Liberals should look first? Linda McQuaigs’ excellent article on “Tax the rich? Not in Canada” in the National Post recently. The Mulroney government gave special treatment in 1991 to two private trusts controlled by the Bronfman family allowing them to use an argument previously rejected by Revenue Canada to move $2 billion in assets out of the country to the U.S. without paying $700 million in taxes. It was reversed in favour of the Bronfman family on a feeble technicality.

Don’t bother Revenue Canada – it was Parliament Hill where the buck finally stopped. Remember two-tiered medicine – there’s two-tiered justice too. When the 5,000 tax investigators knock on your door about the devious underground economy sins, ask them: “When are you going to get that $700 million from the Bronfmans?”

The statute of limitations hasn’t run out. “Go get ’em guys! And, remember when you get around to me – I keep all my savings in an old sock. But I can’t remember where I keep the old sock.”