Sunday, June 28, 2009


Posting this afternoon from the USO lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Nice place! I feel a little out of place without my ACUs and attention-grabbing tactical American Flag Patch, but what the heck. I got Reeses to drink a little water, which was such a big accomplishment that I don't mind being the only pregnant woman with teal shoes in the USO.

So, yesterday's flight plans didn't work out too well. Arrived at the airport at 0945, 1.5 hours before my scheduled departure. Checked in, paid my pet fees, all is good. Our airplane has not arrived. Joseph observes at about 1010 "Your plane should be getting here by now." His combat hunter is finely tuned and (surprise, surprise) correct. The plane should have arrived about 1015, but failed to do so. Not only that, but the plane failed to even depart Dallas by 1010. Instead, it chose to undergo a series of heat-related maintenance delays before finally taking off from Dallas at 1120.

The security checkpoint was opened to passengers at 1200. A very tearful me and a very frightened Reeses made it through security without trouble, me ending with considerably more fur than when I started, and she with considerably less. All is well. The flight crew of our plane had totally deplaned to use the "real" bathroom--they'd been sitting on the tarmac in Dallas for quite a time--and we waited until they returned before we boarded. We boarded. I sat in the second-to-last row, aisle seat, next to a niceish gentleman who was flying to Anchorage.

It is 93 degrees and rising outside. The temperature inside the cabin remains currently classified. We wait and wait, until finally we've been given our safety features brief and all is set to go. Then, suddenly, like in a movie, the phone bell rings for the flight attendant to pick up, about the same time a person (no kidding) starts knocking on the cabin door from the outside.

[Now, I can't tell you exactly what sort of aircraft I was flying it. It's a twin engine turboprop commuter, and the cabin door is at the rear of the plane. Therefore, me in the back rows sitting on the aisle can enjoy the fulll range of emotion going on at the door.]

The door opens. The guy from the desk (he's also the guy with the chocks and the baggage train) explains the trouble to the flight attendant. He was a nice young man with a well modulated voice. She was also nice, but neither young, nor male, nor in possession of a well-modulated voice. So I hear:

"You've got to be kidding me!!"
"Well, you go tell her, I'm not gonna tell her, it wasn't my fault!"
"I can'tspspsppppspspcauseospsppss. Okay?"

Then Modulated Voice moves away from the door, back down the steps, and Flight Attendant comes over the speaker. "Miss [Passenger]?? Please raise your hand." Now, here's where we knew something was fishy--the hand goes up immediately and the chick goes ahead to start gathering her stuff before Flight Attendant gets to her. Conversation ensues, Passenger disbarks. Passenger is heard telling Flight Attendant that she had bags checked (planeside) aboard the flight. This is bad news, because it means the engines have to be compeltely throttled back so that the ground crew can open the baggage compartment, which sits just forward of the left engine.

Sooo, 20 minutes into our stay on the tarmac (temperature still rising), Passenger and bags begin their exit. Turns out, she was flying standby and shouldn't have been approved but was anyway and no one wanted to flame their own butt for the mistake so they were flaming everyone elses'. End of story: passenger and bags exit.

Now its, what, 1240 and the temperature has to be close to 100. The cabin door is shut, and the phone bell rings a couple more times. Flight Attendant explains to Silent Flight Attendant that there's a problem with the weight/cargo ratio calculations, and the Captain didn't like the numbers and was redoing the whole equation before Captain was willing to take off. This takes another 20 minutes. 1300, and Captain says in a very professionally exhausted tone, "Sorry for the delay. We have had to make adjustments for the heat. Performance on this aircraft is no longer capable of supporting the original weight we took on board. We've elected to keep all our passengers [!] and offload a portion of the cargo. It will follow us to Dallas on the next flight."

Another 20 minutes of bumping whilst cargo is offloaded. Reeses has started to show strong signs of distress. She's panting, listless, etc. I start waving the safety briefing card at her (useless) and hoping they'll come by with some water. They, do, eventually, and I get it in and get some of the water on to her face (mostly useless). I'm now bothered by the idea of arriving in Dallas with a dead cat. What a buzz kill, right? Thankfully, about the time I'm really starting to worry, they finish their calculating and get us to the end of the runway. Huzzah! So, at 1320 (one hour in the non-ventilated plane at this point) we've progessed 500 yards.

A pause. Hearts sink. After about 2 minutes of sitting, Captain says in her tired professional tone, "We're still taking off heavy, need to lose about 150 gallons of fuel. That takes 8.2 minutes and then we're outta here." She is right-- 8.2 minutes later we head down the runway. Unfortunately, 8.9 minutes from the original announcement, we stop heading anywhere in particular and instead get to feel what an aborted takeoff feels like.

Engine #2 overheated on throttle up, it appeared, and so Captain took us all back to the terminal and told us to get off. "This is just silly," she was thinking. She'd already done this once today. So, we all get off and relive multiple times the feeling of suddenly getting to the point where, normally, the plane would have lifted from the ground, but instead the counter-forward-motion measures had been quickly applied and we did a number of things other than lift. The first, of course, was a slowing down. The second was a rapid series of side-to-side motions which gave fright to myself, Critter, and Reeses a lot more than the unbelieveable noise that the brakes on a twin-engine turboprop commuter makes.

End of story? Joseph came back to get us, we went home, enjoyed a bonus 18 hours together, and woke up this morning to light rain and a blissful 79 degrees. Life is good.

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