(Photo credit: Underconsideration.com)
This is the captain speaking. We’ve been informed that Atlanta is experiencing a severe ice storm. No planes bound for Atlanta are being allowed to take off. Because we are already in route, we have been given permission to land.
So, if it’s not safe for a plane from Houston to land in Atlanta, what makes it safe for a plane from Seattle to land? This trip had been plagued from the start. I won’t say cursed. . .I’m pretty sure that people die on cursed flights and I didn’t want to jinx us.
It was a a fairly typical trip when I booked it. I was working for Microsoft as an Instructional Designer, meaning that I designed courseware. I was on my way to Microsoft’s offices in Charlotte, North Carolina to watch one of our instructors present my latest course for the first time. My flight from Seattle had a layover in Atlanta because I was flying DELTA, which stands for:
I got to the airport early, checked in and even scored an exit row seat. (My Road Warrior Skillz were working!) The flight boarded on time at about 8:30 am. We settled in and I turned on the on-board Country music channel.
Just about the time the pilot is supposed to say, “Flight attendants please take your seats,” he came on the intercom and said,
We’re going to have a slight delay. It seems our air speed indicator is not working properly. Fortunately there’s one that can be flown up from Portland. It means we’re going to be stuck here for at least 90 minutes.
I actually wasn’t too disappointed. Just a month earlier a plane in Florida had made a crater in the Everglades because their ASI malfunctioned. I thought, “It’s too bad this is a McDonnell Douglas plane. If it were a Boeing plane, they could probably run one down from Everett in 20 minutes.
Two hours later we pushed back from the gate, and took off into the beautiful blue skies over Puget Sound. I settled back into the Country music channel. They were spotlighting Reba. Did you know it was actually her mom who taught her to sing?
Half way to Atlanta we got the message about the Atlanta ice storm. We watched the sun set from 30,000 feet. The last images were of an unending sea of clouds.
(Picture credit: Seth Wilkinson)
Folks, this is the captain again. We are currently over the Atlanta area and as soon as we get a hole in the clouds, we’ll be landing. It might be bumpy, so please stay in your seats.
For an hour we circled.
The Country channel was on a loop and after four times through, I knew everything about Reba that I cared to. I don’t remember what time we were supposed to land in Atlanta, but clearly we were WAY over due. Even if they hadn’t closed the airport all connecting flights were gone. We were the only thing left in the air.
Folks, this is the captain again. We’re running out of gas. We’re going to stop at a gas station in Birmingham and top it off.
Okay, he didn’t actually say that. It was probably something appropriate and designed to not scare people into thinking the plane might fall out of the sky. But, it felt like that.
So, off we went to Alabama. We’ve now been on this plane for 10 or 11 hours. We’re tired, we’re hungry, and let’s face it, we are starting to stink just a little. Apparently Birmingham didn’t have an ice storm problem and we landed just fine.
Don’t bother to get up folks, we’re not going to pull up to the terminal, we’re just going to get some gas and head back to Atlanta.
A couple of people immeadiately hit their flight attendant call buttons. After a hurried conversation with the flight attendant, and a message relayed to the captain.
Ah. . .this is the captain again. Apparently some of you were planning on making Birmingham your final destination today. So, we’ll be moving to another gate that can accommodate a plane our size.
A short taxiway ride later and a handful of very frazzled passengers collected their belongings and fled the plane. What was even more amazing was that they were replaced with an equal number of new passengers. Apparently some people REALLY wanted to go to Atlanta.
I’m not an aircraft expert, but is it normal to have to turn off the air conditioning in the cabin to fuel the plane? No wonder McDonnell Douglas couldn’t compete with Boeing. All our fellow passengers got a lot more colorful smelling as we simmered in our juices for 20 minutes while they fueled the plane.
Back to Atlanta we went.
Finally, there was a break in the clouds and we made a remarkably smooth landing. Have you ever walked into a high school late at night when there is no one around? Yeah, the terminal was kind of like that. We all got in a long line to reschedule flights. When it was my turn I picked the earliest available flight to Charlotte, 6:30am. No problem. I’m pretty sure I would have no trouble making it to the airport on time.
Then we got in another long line to pick up a blanket, a pillow and a small bag of toiletries. All the hotels were full, of course.
It’s a food coupon for dinner.
Which restaurants is it good for?
Anything in the airport.
It’s 12:30 at night, what’s open?
Well, then wouldn’t it be more accurate to say it’s a Dominos coupon?
Oh, it’s good all day tomorrow as well!
(Photo credit: mydominosvouchers.com)
I ate my slice of pizza and curled up on the floor under the seats at gate C3, where in six short hours, hopefully a plane would put me out of my misery.
I’m all for safety, and I think we are each responsible for helping keep everyone safe. But, seriously was it necessary to blare
FOR THE SAFETY OF YOURSELF AND YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT PACKAGES FROM ANY UNKNOWN PERSONS
every 20 minutes all.night.long? There were no passengers. There were no packages. The airport was closed. I got a full night’s sleep in 20 minute chunks.
Tomorrow couldn’t get worse than this. . .could it?
This is the first of a two part series on my worst ever trip. Tomorrow, I’ll explain how I didn’t kill anyone and why that was noteworthy!
Rodney Bliss is a blogger, author and IT Consultant. When he’s not on a plane, he lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah with his lovely wife and 13 children.