Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Surprise Call

Some very senior captain suddenly got sick and no reserves were available to fill in. A bad day at the crew desk, I suppose. So I got a surprise call on my day off, a Sunday morning. Could I take a Rome trip that evening at 17:30? If so, they would move my day off to another day of my choice. I told them I'd call back in 10 minutes.

An idea struck me, but it was dripping with hazard. I took a quick look at the passenger loads―there were open seats in first class both ways. I looked in the bathroom. Ellie was getting ready for church. I said, “Want to go to Rome?" The brush in her hair stopped. "We'll need to leave in an hour,” I added. She normally needed a month to get ready for a trip. I waited a few seconds and, as I expected, got no answer. I quickly departed the bathroom premises and waited a couple of minutes to see if a protest was to be issued. Non was proffered, so I interpreted that as an affirmative. She had never been to Rome, nor even anywhere in Europe. After all these years, I have never taken her. Always too busy. Always something more compelling to do. But here now was a chance for a quick visit. The layover was 27 hours.

But we only had two hours to catch the commuter flight to Dulles. It was going to be close. I called crew scheduling and accepted the trip.

We were going to make it by mere minutes when she hit a snag at security screening. Two bottles of whatever were too big. I looked back at her from the secure side and wanted to bang my head against the wall. Why didn't I put her liquids in my bag? I'm not subject to those limitations. I heard a PA announcement about our flight, but didn't get all the words. I had already checked us in on-line. I wondered if they were paging us. I hurried out the exit and put her stuff in my bag, then went back through security. It cost us five minutes.

When we reached the gate the door was closed and the Jetway pulled. No one was at the podium. I stood in the window and waved my arms wildly, trying to get the commuter captain's attention. It was still seven minutes prior to scheduled departure, for Pete's sake. Then the door opened and the agent said, “Oh. There you are! I've been paging you.” He looked at his watch. He pecked on his computer. He cursed. He picked up the phone and called somebody. He told them, “I've already done that.” He pecked again. I looked at my watch and saw three minutes left. I knew they would not hold the flight for us. They had rules and were held accountable. I fidgeted. He shook his head and let out a heavy sigh. He had never re-opened a flight that he had closed. A bag handler appeared. “Cap'n said get 'em on and work out the details later!” Who ever that guy was, he's a candidate for a bigger jet.

We made it to Dulles and Ellie got seat 1A. Perfect. After an hour's delay due to a fuel leak from the dump pipes that mysteriously fixed itself, we launched and made an uneventful crossing.

I couldn't have picked a worse day to take El to Rome. Usually mild and sunny, Rome was wet, windy and cold. None-the-less we got in a Vatican tour, walked through the Colosseum and enjoyed some tasty Italian cuisine and wine. She got 1A again for the RTB and we had another good crossing.

Thanks for all the interesting comments from the last post. I guess I failed to tick anybody off except Scott, but that's easy. I'll try again later.

Coasting-in at Nice, heading northwest
toward the French Alps.

Established westbound on NAT D.

Follow that guy.


william said...

Good story! He who hesitates is lost.

Rob said...

One of the many reasons why I want that job :P

Lakotahope said...

It's good to see something good happen somewhere to someone--especially, a pilot.

Mike said...

You missed the Baptist service but got to the Vatican, a close second. My stomach was in a knot as I read about the 7 min to dept. because I've been there and they didn't open the door. o seats to MCO!