What was the status (class) of your dad before the October revolution? What were the contents of the messages he sent to people on the outside?
ATC checking in. I was 4 months into my training at Heathrow as a young trainee ATC when I walked back upstairs from a break and was greeted to the sight of the BAW 777 coming over the fence and crashing. I probably had the best view of anyone of your near death experience! Up in the tower at first we thought the pilot was being a smart arse and trying to do a short landing to come off at one of the early exits, then it dawned on the controller in charge of that runway that shit was about to get real. There’s a good YouTube video of the ATC tape of my former colleague doing a fantastic job of co-ordinating the emergency. In it you will even hear the pilot calling the mayday and uses the incorrect call sign, he used the call sign BA use in their simulator when they PRACTICE emergencies, so they literally went into “auto pilot” mode.
It actually was a blessing that the plane landed short of the runway and in the grass, which was soft from the perpetual English rain, as it’s believed the runway surface may have caused a fire on impact. Having low amounts of jet fuel left in the tanks after a long flight also probably decreased the likelihood of fire.
10 years later, I have never seen anything like it in my career as an ATC, and I don’t wish to. The whole tower staff on duty were deeply affected for days afterwards but everyone involved from ATC, pilots, crew, ground staff, emergency services did an amazing job and turned a potential disaster into a Very British Plane Crash which caused some minor disruption, some grumbling about delays, and was mostly forgotten by the media in a matter of days.
How did it affect you afterwards? I see your sense of humour is still intact but did you have any PTSD or similar? I’m sure I’m not alone as an ATC/Pilot that has dreams about crashes or emergencies, some of which are based on my memories of your crash.
Thanks for doing this AMA
There’s always that kid showing up in your office multiple times a week. What does this adorable human say?
Around a 100 should not be too much of a challenge on a normal day.
My father was a photographer which would be middle class. The messages he sent to his parents were about his wife and children - the usual stuff discussed between parents and children. He was never involved in politics which meant that he was not a member of the Communist Party.
You probably had it worse as you could see how bad it was. I was listening to a show called what goes up might come down. Look it up, it's an after dinner speech by an ex ATC man.
I have a handful of "frequent flyers." When it comes to these kiddos, I try to play the long game. I chat with them in the hall and cafeteria, and make sure I get on a first-name basis with the parent(s). I see it as banking karma for when it comes time for tough conversations.
I spent my career in middle schools prior to this position, and I can say I was completely unprepared for the sheer quantity of birthday cupcakes and treats I get on a daily basis. Kids drop by my office all the time to give me a birthday treat. I have a few birthday presents (free book, bookmark, and pencil) that I hand out. I also ask about their birthday plans, gifts, meal, etc., to try and make them feel special on their special day.
Most of my coworkers did not even know what net neutrality was. I was trying to educate everyone but I think I only reached a few people. There's a lot of internal propaganda about the subject which is the biggest reason why I left the company. We were literally asked to hand out fliers to customer with a little statement from Verizon with a header saying "Verizon supports a free internet" written at the top. That was the last straw for me.
I was so glad to hear there was no fatalities in this crash, mostly due to the pilots expert crash landing. This is one of my favourite "Air Crash Investigations", did you see the episode?
The complexity of sequence of events that made the engines fail and the length the investigation teams went to try to reproduce the problem was good work all round.
I am in my 35th year of teaching at the elementary level and have had both wonderful and horrible principals, but have yet to have a principal ask this simple question of me, “What could I do to help you be a better teacher this year?” I am asking you, “What could I do, if I was one of your teachers, to help you be a better principal this year?”
I think it was the spiritual crisis caused by discrepancy between the rosy propaganda and totalitarian reality that made the Soviet people lose faith in the system. I think there is a lesson in this for us.
I didn't. Lots of people mentioned to me that they saw it but I kinda knew the ending.
What freaks me out about a crash landing is being trapped in a burning aircraft by passengers gathering their luggage. What was your reaction to other passenger's instincts to gather luggage rather than self survival?
Have you ever made Steamed Hams for your Super Intendent?
The Soviet propaganda painted the United States as an almost fascist country where everyone was being exploited by the capitalists and wished they lived in a Communist country. One couldn't read Western newspapers or books and did not have any information about real life in the West. The fact that no information was available from the West did not give us an opportunity to compare the two systems. I did not believe them and, having studied in West Germany after fleeing the Soviet Union, already knew what democracy was all about.
My friend and I shared a look of "Seriously?!" and then used their delay to get the hell off the plane.
I didn't even grab my jumper. January on a runway at Heathrow in a t-shirt is not a warm experience. On the plus side Russia and China was colder so I was somewhat acclimatised.
That's what I call hamburgers. It's a regional dialect.
I don't understand what you're asking.
It depends on how you define "petty crimes". During the collectivization of farmers, theft from the collective farm of a handful of grain stalks needed for survival was considered a crime punishable by years of imprisonment. People stole because there were shortages of everything and among the population, stealing from the government was not viewed as a real crime. In general, petty crime was common.
Edit: People had to remove windshield wipers when they parked their cars for fear of them being stolen.
Mine was flatter but intact.
It took a few days before they could extract it from the wreckage and send it back in a taxi.
"The Black Book of Communism", Harvard University Press, 1999
To be fair I actually got my friends luggage first but her clothes don't fit me so I swapped back.
Anatole, what do you see is the most ideal and fair system of government, and which countries have implemented that system of government the most faithfully?
Wait, you swapped the luggage or the clothes!?
How does a public school work financially? I assume you get a budget from the city/state, but how is that amount determined (population, yearly negotiation, some success metric?) and is it earmarked for specific items, or do you have the discretion to prioritize?
Did you have another job lined up, or are you just completely lacking impulse control?
I think it is democracy in which the opponents are not considered to be enemies, as we had it in the second half of the 20th century.
Great question. Generally, money either comes from local taxes or state funding. The state releases its budget in early spring and that gives districts a head's up on how much they will receive. The remaining balance in the projected budget for the next school year either needs to be made up via an increase in local taxes, or it needs to be reduced. I'm over generalizing, but that's the jist.
At the district level, each building has a budget for supplies, equipment, etc. I have to meet with the superintendent in January each year to walk through how I plan to spend money. He primarily pays attention to the bottom line - my annual budget is around $85,000. If I want a big ticket item (like musical instruments, for example), I can budget for that but it means I may have to go light on another area. Costs for personnel, health insurance, buildings and grounds, maintenance, etc, is handled at the district level.
There are some years when the state funding comes up short and we simply don't want to put up a high local tax increase to vote. This is when programs and staff start getting cut. A few years ago, NYS passed a bill called the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, that caused havoc and decimated schools. We're finally now starting to get back to where we were before the GEA.
In addition, school receive special aidable funding for certain things like textbooks and communication services (this is a federal thing called E-Rate).
I have an interview coming up but nothing solid. I have a big chunk of savings lined up though so I can get by for a month or two.
How do you think things would have turned out if Trotsky had been able to succeed Lennin instead if Stalin rising to power?
How much did you get in compensation?
Thank you for your question. I have answered this above: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/7n2s34/iama_survivor_of_stalins_communist_dictatorship/drymmya/
A 2 week holiday anywhere in the world for myself and 3 friends with business class flights.
5 years of gold level membership in the executive club.
Most importantly I got to go down the evacuation slide.
It's nice to see you have your priorities straight. ;)
What's worse is the plane was listing to the right so the slide wasn't as steep as it should be. I didn't think asking to go back and try the other side was a great idea though.
Why wasn't Stalin assassinated?
What do you think of the Russian War effort in WW2
What do you think of Putin and his role in Syria?
What is a good book that provided a fair analysis of Communist Russia
There there. There'll be other crashes, sweetie.
According to rumors, Stalin was assassinated by Lavrenty Beria who arranged for a larger than normal dose of blood thinning medication be given to him. Beria felt his life was threatened when Stalin was preparing another purge of the leadership.
I am not an expert in matters of the war.
As for the book question, my new book "A Brief History of Communism" analyzes life in Communist Russia.
What if any parallels do you see in Putin's increasingly autocratic government and the Soviet government?
So where did you go??
I'm old enough to remember when principals still spanked kids at school. How would you feel if that was still a thing today?
how many people quit with you? Do you think your quitting made a difference or was it just to show that you are pissed.
The fact that he is approved by 80% of the Russian population shows that because Russia never had a real democracy, an autocratic government is acceptable to a majority there and so is Putin's objective of restoring military power and influence in the world.
Trans-Siberian railway from England to China.
Corporal punishment breeds resentment and doesn't address the root cause of the negative behavior. There is growing support for restorative practices (that's a fun Google search if you're bored) and it's something I'm starting to build into my routine when dealing with behavior problems. It requires a culture shift though. I have some teachers who want me to be the hammer - they don't understand the concept of using a negative consequence as a teaching tool. They just think I'm being "soft" on the kids.
I was the only one in my whole district that quit to my knowledge. In the grand scheme of things it probably won't make a difference but I have to stand up to my beliefs.
What party/ideology do you identify with in the US? What do you think about Bernie Sanders being painted as a communist for wanting to incorporate socialistic programs into our capitalist society?
not flying again eh?
I am in the middle of the road between the republicans and democrats.
We should differentiate between Communism and Socialism. Bernie Sanders is not a Communist. I think he would like to see a system more like what they have in Sweden, which is a monolithic society and would not work here.
That was the way out. The flight home from that was the crash. Two weeks of train travel without an issue. One lousy 11 hour plane ride...
As a survivor of Stalin's regime, what would you say to demonstrate how bad it really was to someone who's romanticizing the communist ideology?
I think the question was where did you go on free vacation anywhere in the world
Stalin's regime caused the death of over 24,000,000 of his citizens. They killed my father and many others just for writing a letter to their family abroad. They starved millions of people during artificially created famines in order to force farmers into collective farms.
I would recommend reading "Gulag: A History" by Anne Applebaum.
Yeah I got lost in the trail of replies. The compensation holidays were to Antigua and then India.
Do you think that the hardships you endured are related to an inherent evil in Communism? Or is it that the people in power were corrupt?
What I mean is, do you think in a perfect world Communism would work and the problem is we are imperfect creatures, or is Communism evil even if it is implemented perfectly?
Came here to ask about the slide.
Considering that the same system in other countries like China, Cuba, and Cambodia led to the same results, it shows that it was the system that is incompatible with human nature. It couldn't be implemented in any other way. Powerful people in other ideologies are also corrupt and yet they did not murder millions of their own citizens.
Sadly not as fun as I would have expected :(
What is your opinion on educated people in America who openly support communism, as well as dictators and their dictatorship?
As the son of a Cuban whose family was prosecuted and killed in Cuba, it infuriates me to hear people who praise those like Castro. So many people see only what they want to see.
Edit: after some responses and questions I went to talk to my father about the family history. Turns out my direct family (grandfather, pregnant grandmother) left Cuba because my grandfather, a doctor, helped both Batista's men and the men they were fighting during a shootout. Batista put 500,000$ on my grandfather's head for aiding the others. They also disagreed with Batista and later Castro, who ran the rest of my family out of Cuba.
My father said to relay a few things, first that Batista was bad, no denying that, but Castro was worse in his opinion. Batista was a murderer, but he mostly just messed with the political class and left the rest alone if they didn't interfere with the money. Castro messed with everyone, and ran the country into the ground.
My grandfather, Maximo/Luly Viera, was smuggled out, while his cousin Mingolo was not. Mingolo was on Batista's bad side, so he was caught, shot 150 times, and thrown on his mother's front porch.
Edit 2: My father said to post, if communism was so good they wouldn't need fences and walls and machine guns to keep people in.
Did they not let you have another go?
Something about it being too dangerous. Health and Safety gone mad I tell you.
That's a hard question to answer because every day is really different. Let me try to outline the best I can:
7:30ish - Get to work. First thing I do in the morning is check absentee list and make sure we have enough subs. If we are short, I need to figure out coverage internally using teaching assistants or other teachers.
8:05 - 8:35 - Teachers need to be at school by 8:00 but students don't arrive until 8:35. This half hour is when I hold all my committee meetings. There is almost always one every day because we have committees for everything.
8:35 - 8:55 - I wander the halls and say good morning to kids as they arrive. I also duck in with teachers at this time and follow on anything that may have happened the previous day.
8:55 - 9:05ish - Morning announcements. I do these from my office but have a schedule for two students to come down every day and help read the pledge and any announcements. After announcements I usually do another lap of the building and duck in to any classrooms I haven't already seen.
9:00 - 10:00 - This is kind of unstructured time where I usually stay in the office and get caught up on things. This may include returning phone calls, working on my monthly report for the BOE, conducting observations, writing up observation reports, meeting individually with teachers, etc.
11:00 - 1:00 - The cafeteria serves lunch during these two hours. Classes get 30 minutes for lunch and they are staggered so the cafeteria always has around 90ish kids in it. I try to be visible in the cafeteria every day. Once a month, I also pull kids (our version of students of the month) and host a special lunch with them in my office.
1:00 - 3:00 - More unstructured time to get stuff done.
3:00ish - I do another lap into classrooms at the end of the day before dismissal. Band and chorus also take place at the end of the day, so sometimes I drop by and either sing with the kids or play along (I can play a few instruments well enough to keep up with the 5th graders!). I don't get to do that often, but the kids really like it!
3:15ish - Dismissal. I alternate between standing out with the buses and standing at the front of the building to move along kids who walk home. I tend to go up from more during this time of the year when snowball fights can materialize out of nowhere.
3:30 - 4:30ish - Go back to the office and wrap up any loose ends. There are also district-level meetings during this time 4-5 times each month.
This is a pretty mundane accounting of my day since it doesn't account for craziness that can pop up at any given time. Also, an explanation about observations: In NY, every tenured teacher is required to have an announced and unannounced observation annually. The announced observation must also come with a pre-conference and post conference meeting. I have about 30 teachers in my building, so that means around 90 pre/observation/post meetings. Unannounced observations do not need a pre and post conference, but they must be conducted by an administrator that does not work in the building. This means I need to travel to the other three buildings to do observations for teachers who are not in my building. I think I have about 30 of these to do this year.
Is it communism or dictatorship and lack of free speech that made life under Stalin so bad? Can you have a democratic communist country with free speech?
Did you try to put on the oxygen masks? or did you just bs right out of there?
A Communist system cannot tolerate another political party or ideology. Therefore, perhaps only after they exterminate all of their opponents, they would accept "free speech" from their supporters.
I almost did, the impact dropped them but something in my mind kicked in and reminded me that it wasn't going to be much use on the ground.
Hi Mr. Konstantin,
Thank you for making yourself available for an AMA. I stumbled late onto your AMA last year and commented on how influential your book was to me while I was in high school. Your grandson Miles came across my message on that thread and reached out to me last week that you'll be doing an AMA and again reached out earlier today to let me know it was up - thank you, Miles! This actually reminded me the book would be a great gift for my sister who is interested in studying 20th century history - I found the last hardcopy on amazon at the moment :D
I have a few questions if you are able to answer:
Are you still speaking at local schools on life in the USSR? Do you have comments from speaking with students/teachers on your life? You comment on how education does not sufficiently emphasize lessons from history, and I think hearing and seeing someone speak, or writing personal accounts, will likely always be a lesson that finds more connection than watching an aged documentary or reading from a dry school textbook.
Apart from writing, do you have other hobbies?
Do you think communist or other harsh political ideologies would be harder or easier to find root today compared to the early 20th century?
Thank you - best of luck to you and your family in your business and personal endeavors!
But you can't assist others until your own mask is on!
Thank you for your message.
I am no longer speaking in schools, but I am still being interviewed occasionally in local libraries. I found that most history teachers I met are not knowledgable about Communism and therefore their students are not familiar with it.
As for hobbies, I try to follow scientific developments in all areas.
I think that with jobs being lost to automation and artificial intelligence it may become easier in the future for these ideologies to take root.
I like to think I led by example and made my way swiftly to the door.
Do you think Troksky would have been able to bring about a more wholesome, successful, and supportive form of socialism than Lenin did?
Anybody act stupid while evacuating, like trying to retreive thier overhrad baggage or was it all for the door
Since Trotsky wrote, "The Red Terror is a weapon used against a class that, despite being doomed to destruction, does not wish to perish," I do not think that his rule would be any more benevolent than Lenin's.
Far far too many.
What do you feel about the current state of the American hard left? And the polarization of the political landscape in general?
Were people panicked at all, or just sorta confused and shaken up?
I think that the hard left is balanced by the hard right and neither are compatible with democracy as we know it. This is the most polarized time in our history and I think this too shall pass.
A mix of everything. I think confused and shaken up is the most common expression I saw that day.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Your insights are fascinating and I'm definitely hoping to pick up your book soon!
Do you think there are any artistic/fictional representations of life under Stalin's regime that have a particular resonance with your experiences?
did it crash when it was supposed to be landing at the airport, or during the normal flight?
Yes, there is a Russian movie with english subtitles that is called "Burnt by the Sun" which is available on Amazon.
Right at the end. Another hundred meters or so and we would have made it to the runway.
How do you feel about all the memes and jokes about Stalin, Hitler, and communism in general? Are they offensive?
Did this cause a fear of flying for you, or someone close to you?
Did you have a concern for your life?
Did the other passengers reactions make it harder to stay calm?
I am not familiar with memes, but I do not find these sorts of jokes offensive.
No I still fly now whenever I can and look forward to it.
Not at all. I was oblivious to the whole thing so by the time I knew it could have been worse it was over so nothing to be scared about.
The other passengers stopping to get their bags before leaving just gave me a clear path to the exit so I didn't spend a long time stuck inside.
My sister refuses to be on the same plane as me now. I like to think I've got a proven track record and everyone else is just untested.
Wow thanks for the answer! One more question if I may:
What did the process after the crash look like? You got off the plane. What happened then until you got home?
We walked across the grass to a guy who was gathering up passengers without getting close himself. From there we were bussed to the terminal and had to chat with the police as they were immediately investigating it.
While I was chatting with them ("Are you okay?", "Yup", "Seriously?!") the border force were determining if we had the right to enter the country. I was lucky as I had my passport in my pocket. Those who didn't (like my friend) were asked questions to determine if they were actually resident in the UK or had permission to enter.
After that we were moved to the 1st class lounge to be held there till we were ready to go. Didn't stay long as they had cleared the alcohol away and turned all the TVs off.
After my friend and I met back up we got out and met up with her parents who had come to collect us and while walking back to their car a journalist for the BBC pounced on us in the car park for an interview.
Ahhh sounds like one if the 3 friends for the first class trip anywhere
Business class. They reserve 1st class compensation for when they run out of tea on a British Airways flight.
And yes she loved the holidays. Sadly it gave her a taste for expansive hotels.
I've never understood it, I've always thought it would be a good deal to lose my luggage. In a crash. It's just a bag full of sudoku and twizzlers. But when I go to file the claim, suddenly my $500 designer bag was full of cash, new laptop, cell phone, and lots of expensive jewelry.
I could easily have claimed for a new laptop and there would have been no questions asked.
Curse my honesty.
As I recall from the news reports it had been a totally normal flight right up until the last few seconds.
1. When did you realize that something had gone wrong? 2. Describe the impact and the first few seconds following. Were people more stunned or was there a sense of panic?
I figured it was a rough landing. I just wasn't sure how rough.
There was some sense of concern. I think if you could see out a window you would have had a much better idea what was happening.
There were some people crying once we got off the plane and there were the people who stopped to get their hand luggage and a few people shouting at the crew.
The cabin crew was fantastic they got us all off quickly and safely.
Wow. Just read the article. It seems like a the problem wasn't apparent until the very end of the flight. Did the crew have time to tell the passengers anything? Did you know the plane was going in for a hard landing before it happened?
Another question I had for any pilots or anyone with knowledge about aircraft: how would water get into the fuel lines? Isn't water a contaminant in a fuel system?
We didn't even get a call to brace. I remember looking out the window (across 3 seats because I was in the middle block) thinking we were coming down a little steep. I also heard a motor adjusting something which could have been either the flaps or landing gear as the pilot was doing his best to get maximum glide time.
The sad truth is I thought we'd come down a bit hard and then gone off the side of the runway. It wasn't until we got the call to evacuate and I went down the slide to be treated to the view of our undercarriage in the distance and half an engine leaking fluid that I realised just how bad it was.
I was sitting 7 or so rows back from the wing exit and I was the second person down the slide.
In the distance there was a man in a high vis jacket waving for us to head that way so off I set. I was also motivated by the smoker who on getting out of the plane and standing next to the engine decided that then was the time to light up.
Would you credit your survival to the fact that you had your tray table up and your seat back in the full of right position?
More that the person in front did. If that had been reclined I could easily have smashed my head into the back of it.
That was sitting safely at home.
Let's be real, it doesn't matter where a Nokia phone is sitting, it's always safe.
No kidding I found it recently, battery still holds a charge.
What was the process for you like from landing to getting back home? More importantly did you get a lottery ticket on your way back?
I actually wish I had. The guy in the bank suggested it, I was in there cancelling my cards as they were still in the plane.
How do people react when you tell them about this? Is it a lot of sympathy, or shock, or disbelief? Seems like such an interesting conversation piece.
Depends on the person. Work colleagues who travel a lot are jealous of the gold card, now sadly expired. Most people start out concerned then get jealous over the holidays.
Freezing cold. I went to Harbin for an ice and snow festival, failed to order dumplings in a dumpling restaurant, tobogganed off the great wall and ate huge amounts of duck in Beijing.
Did you and the other affected persons got compensation from the air company?
I managed to get 2 holidays out of them. I was travelling with a friend and I took her, her boyfriend and my significant other on my compensation holiday and she then did the same for me.
I also got a new camera and replacement mp3 player as mine were tragically "destroyed".
Do you have an opinion of the 10 passengers that decided to file the lawsuit a year later for $1 million each? Were you ever contacted about it?
I was asked to be a witness for Boeing though it never went that far that they needed me.
I was perfectly happy with the compensation I received and while sure a big pile of money would have been nice I genuinely couldn't claim that it had such an effect on me that I would require that much money.
I wish. With me frequent flyer card I'm sure it appears whenever I check in. I once got bumped to business on a flight to Texas which was great I was sitting there watching The Revenant and realised I had a massive grin on my face while Leo was being eaten by a bear. Must have been a little off putting for anyone walking past.
Firstly this is going to sound weird but this is one of my “favourite” crashes. I for one reason or another enjoy reading up on plane crashes and I’ve always enjoyed the story of this one. Anyway my question is, what was your first thought after impact? Did you initially sense something was wrong or was there a sort of “holy shit we just crashed” moment?
"That was a rough landing, did we go off the side of the runway?"
As it happens it's my favourite crash as well.
What was your reaction to looking at the plane when you got out?
Well bugger me.
Very glad you made it through that traumatic experience. Did it go in slow-mo for you crashing? How fast did it feel? When you were falling, what were your thoughts when all of this was going on when you were going down? Are you more aware and safe how when you travel to fly? And lastly, did you see anyone overly panic or pass out through being scared or panic? Thanks.
I always read the safety card and check where my exit is. And I do pay attention to the cabin crew when they do their safety briefing in case they sneak something new in I should know about.
Spoiler alert: They haven't yet.
When the plane was landing i assume you were sitting right? So does it hurt and how big is the impact to the insides of the aeroplane?
For this one I have to assume it was about as gentle as it can be and still be a crash landing. I was sitting and wearing my seat belt. The most pain was from my hand being flung forwards into the seat in front.
I took my friends to Antigua. We learned to S.C.U.B.A. dive and drank a vast quantity to rum.
My friend took us on a tour of India.
How long were you kept in the airport afterwards? Did you need to be interviewed by anyone and how soon did the media try to get at you?
It was a few hours to get processed past the police and immigration.
After that we got jumped on by the BBC as we walked through the carpark telling my friends parents about it.
I also got the local papers and the radio calling me from the next day. I'd love to know for sure where they got my contact details from.
Yes it was all put in a taxi and sent back a few days later. They mixed my friends and my bags up so I did wonder where the lace underwear and bras had come from for a few minutes before my brain caught up.
What was the first thing your family said when you came back?
I called in at my parents house on my way home and my dad greeted me with "Saw you on TV"
My sister had to be sent home from work because she was panicking having seen the news. It was a bit pathetic on her part because she didn't actually know I was on that flight she just assumed I was.
My cat just looked at me expecting food.
What was your first distinction that made you realise something was wrong?
The grumbling noise of soil against the fuselage.