The Anatomy of a Delay

June 24, 2008 3 Comments A+ a-

I arrived home from Boston on Sunday night and took a look at the Reserve list. This is a list of who is to fly that particular day, and in what order they are called out. That's a simple way to put it because there are legalities involved (both the FAA and our union contract) but it gives you a pretty good idea of the next day and where you stand.

I saw that my name was on the very last page of six pages of Reserves--I had a ton of hours for the month of June and got in late that night and was only good for one day. There is no way they are going to fly me the next day, right?

Au contraire, mon ami!

I shoulda known--the moment I start thinking that way is the moment I'm screwed.

I was called to fly to Chicago (ORD) and back. No big deal. In fact, the time it takes me to get from my house, to the airport and through security and over to the domicile takes longer than the flight to ORD. And, my first leg was a deadhead - being repositioned by the company and riding as a passenger. For the start of my little 6 hour workday, I had myself a lovely little nap on my way to ORD. Grabbed a salad at McDonald's and headed for my gate for the return to Washington (IAD).

The plane, a Boeing 767, had arrived from Paris (CDG) and was over at the International terminal. From there it had to be cleaned and checked out, before being brought over to the Domestic Terminal. Whether it was late in arriving from CDG, or late because of procedures once it arrived, I don't know. I do know know that our departure back to IAD was delayed more than an hour....and there was (insert gloomy sound here) weather developing on the East Coast.

We boarded and got everyone settled in--only to have an Air Traffic Control (ATC) delay. When there is a lot of traffic heading in a particular direction, and thunderstorms are developing, it slows the air traffic down. Controllers have to increase the spacing between each of the flights for safety--and planes are not allowed to take off when originally planned. The controllers sequence them in and that slows up the arrivals and departures. We were given a wheels up time of about 40 minutes--which became an hour....and then, a ground stop was issued in Washington. A ground stop keeps any aircraft from taking off for that particular destination on the ground--as opposed to holding in the air/diverting/wasting fuel, etc because of the traffic density and weather issues.

I was working in Business and for the most part, people were cool--they knew the drill and knew it was not our fault. And, we kept them as comfortable as we could. (Did I say likkered up????)

Once we got airborne, we had to fly around the weather. Norm was tracking my flight and later told me that we flew way South instead of mostly to the East. We also circled and had to hold because of the amount of lightning and thunderstorms over the airport--the flight tracker showed that we circled for about 30 minutes at 4000 feet. Plus it was very bumpy, and we were in our jumpseats for a long time.

Finally cleared to land, we were told that the ramp was closed. The ramp (aka tarmac, apron--the area outside of the terminal, where the planes are) was closed because the storm was right there over the airport, and employees are not allowed to be marshalling airplanes in, unloading bags, moving jet bridges, etc. with all that lightning--too dangerous. So, we sat out on the ramp for another 30 minutes!

We arrived at the gate around 10:15 p.m. Our original arrival time was 6:41 p.m. - three and a half hours late.

I think everyone people made their connections, though. The only connections on our flight were to Sao Paulo (GRU), Kuwait City (KWI), and Buenos Aires (EZE). Those flights were listed on the departure board when I got inside the terminal as delayed--and the plane we brought in was the one going to GRU. So, I'm fairly confident that they made their flights.


On the homefront--I have a few days off. I am going to try to non-rev down to San Antonio to see my Dad tomorrow. And in perfect "Savage" style, will leave the next morning--never staying long enough to wear out a welcome! Okay, my Dad thinks I am coming to see him. I'm really coming for the lunch at the Thai Cafe! (Just kidding, Dad!)

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Chic Gal
June 24, 2008 at 10:55 PM delete

Wow! I am in awe of you. I'm scared to death of flying since the horrible storm I flew through from Houston to Ft. Lauderdale. You are just amazing to do that for a profession.

June 25, 2008 at 12:21 AM delete

Storms are just "potholes"...if you think of it that way, maybe it's easier!

June 25, 2008 at 2:55 PM delete

glad everyone was nice. enjoy your days off!