As the plane roared through the thin air it's passengers turned pale and gasped for breath. Suddenly, Karl yelled, "An engine is on fire"

HONOLULU was fantastic. It was a perfect beginning for our tour. After drawing what the promoters told us was "a record crowd" at our Honolulu concert, we had three carefree days in which to swim, surf and get a tan. Back on the mainland, our good luck continued as we enjoyed playing for knock-out crowds in San Jose and Los Angeles. When we finished L.A., we boarded - along with fellow artists The Animals and the Three And A 1/2 - the private Martin 202 plane we had chartered. That's when the trouble began.
    We took off for Denver in the best of spirits. Some of the guys were looking out the window, as it was 10 a.m. and the view below was beautiful. Others were playing cards, and some were grabbing a nap. The plane, which was not pressurized, began to climb a bit. I thought nothing of it, but I did know that non-pressurized craft cannot exceed a certain height, as the air becomes thin and the oxygen in it diminishes.
    Suddenly, I saw Johnny Angel, one of the Three, gasping for air. He was as white as a ghost and I truly thought he was dying of some sort of spasms. I was absolutely terrified. Then I noticed that some of the other fellows were wheezing and turning pale! The first thought that went through my mind was that some kind of gas must have escaped into the airplane and that we were all about to be asphyxiated!
    The plane roared on and I looked below. I saw some mountains and realized that we were climbing to pass over them. I also rapidly deduced that if this kept up we all would soon need some pure oxygen to breathe. Then came the worst part.
    Eric Burdon, who is asthmatic, began to have convulsions. Panic, which is always the companion of such disasterous situations, began to take over. We all stared at each other, wondering which way to turn and what to do. The steward rushed out of the cockpit and said, "Please - all of you sit down. There is nothing wrong. Just stay calm."

    He hurried over to Eric and Johnny and, with help, assited them forward where two tanks of pure oxygen were produced and masks were slapped onto the boys' mouths. Within seconds, they were breathing normally - and, oddly enough, so was everyone else on the plane. You see, for the rest of us it was mostly panic that was causing our short breath and gasping. However, a third bottle of oxygen was passed about among us, as the pilot explained that we had scaled the mountains and were about to make a steep descent and an emergency landing at Farmington, New Mexico.
    "I want to be sure that Johnny and Eric are O.K. before we fly on to Denver," he said. "I am radioing below for a doctor to be on hand."
    Well, wouldn't you know our troubles were still not over! After a hair-raising dive toward the runway, we leveled off to land. Suddenly Karl yelled, "An engine is on fire!"
    I looked out the window and sure enough - fire and smoke were coming from one of the engines. Once again, I was terrified. I looked at Lek, who looked back at me as calmly as you please. It was like being inside of some crazy dream.
    When the plane came to a stop, everyone rushed to the door; which was at the back of the craft. I had been sitting forward, and I just had to wait and wait for everyone to get out. It seemed like hours. Finally, we all huddled together in the small airport waiting room - and the pilot came in. He had a very firm expression on his face. Slowly, we each looked at one another - and all at once we felt very guilty. "Men," he said, in a pleasant but sarcastic way, "the doctor is taking two of the Three to the local hospital. Eric is all right. I have loaded more oxygen on the plane and we are now departing for Denver. If, for any reason, the air gets thin again, please keep your seats and don't panic. There is plenty of oxygen and we are more than adequately prepared to take care of all of you."
    He started to walk away, as we exchanged sheepish glances among ourselves. Then, he turned and added, "As for that engine 'fire' - you'll see 'flame-out' on both engines when making a short, fast ascent or descent over an airfield. You should all know that by now."
    Back aboard the plane, we revved up and took off - with a very sharp ascent. And - guess what? - he was right. The "flame-out" was there. But we weren't scared. We knew what it was!

Herman & The Hermits perform live on English TV.

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