I The Cassell Dictionary of Anecdotes stødte jeg på følgende:
It is very important to know your element. There was once a Secretary of State for Air who was himself a qualified pilot. He went down to Southampton to see and try out a new flying boat. He went up in it and after a bit he asked the pilot if he might take over the controls. This, of course, was agreed. They approached an airfield and the Minister circled round it and lost height steadily until the young man could bear it no longer. He said, ‘Sir, this is a flying boat, you know.’ The Minister gave him a very old-fashioned look and circled the airfield again. He then moved off and brought the flying boat down carefully on Southampton Water. As he turned to go, the young man, feeling that he might have blotted his copybook, said, ‘I hope, sir, you didn’t mind my saying that: I thought you might have forgotten this was a flying boat.’ The Minister looked at him and said, ‘My boy, cabinet ministers don’t make elementary mistakes like that.’ He then turned, said goodbye, opened the door and stepped into six feet of water.
Under anekdoten står at læse “Told by General Sir Brian Robertson, chairman of the British Transport Commission at the annual diner of the Municipal Passenger Transport Association (Inc) at Southend in 1954.” Enhver der har læst Tintin-albummet Kong Ottokars scepter vil huske, at det slutter med en meget lignende scene med Dupond og Dupont i ministerens rolle. De pågældende sider fra den Tintinhistorie blev oprindeligt publiceret i 1939. Det ville jo være herligt om anekdoten virkelig havde rod i en virkelig hændelse, som er blevet bemærket ikke bare af Robertson, men også af Hergé, men mere sandsynligt er det nok bare en vandrehistorie. En netsøgning afslører en variant i en anden anekdotesamling, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes. Her er klovnerollen tildelt den græske general Ioannis Metaxas (1879-1941):
During a visit of inspection to an air base Metaxas was invited to test a new flying boat. He took the aircraft up for a short flight and was coming in to land when the commander of the base intervened: “Excuse me, General; it would be better to come down on the water; this is a flying boat.” Metaxas, who had been about to put the aircraft down on a runway, swerved quickly upward, made another circuit, and touched the flying boat down safely on the surface of the water. Metaxas switched off the engine and turned to his host. “Thank you, Commander, for preventing me from making a stupid blunder” – and so saying, briskly opened the aircraft’s door and jumped out into the water.
Selvom jeg umiddelbart kun kan få Google til at lave en meget begrænset “uddragsvisning”, er det nok til at konstatere, at Eric Woods’ bog From Flying Boats to Flying Jets: Flying in the Formative Years of BOAC: 1946-1972 også indeholder en version af anekdoten. Her er piloten en trainee, der tidligere kun har haft erfaring med almindelige fly. Som i Robertsons udgave er det dog stadig Southampton Water der landes på:
… boats, there is an amusing little anecdote concerning the ‘reverse’ conversion of one captain from land planes to flying boats, … Brought to a halt by the shocked flying boat training captain, the trainee apologised for his dreadful oversight, blaming it … He then flew the flying boat back to Southampton Water, made a perfect ‘landing’ on the sea and jumping out of his …
Denne sidste udgave forekommer mig umiddelbart mest troværdig, hvis der altså overhovedet ligger en virkelig hændelse til grund.