A fire, a bird strike, and three planes to get to Raleigh

Last week I was scheduled to go to Raleigh for a meeting. It was a simple overnight trip, and I was slated to arrive around 930. I had a tight 10-20-14-1connection, so was a bit relieved when I checked my flight status on my phone and saw it was delayed by twenty minutes. Then I looked up from my phone and saw a plume of smoke. Not something you typically see at an airport, so I moved closer to the window to get a better look. Then I saw a plane parked off in the distance, with flames underneath. Holy crap! I couldn’t see what airline, and with all the water being sprayed on it the fire quickly died down. Still! It was crazy.

I should have known then, though, that the trip wasn’t going to go as planned. My earlier relief at a short delay soon turned to consternation as it was delayed another twenty, another twenty, and then yet another twenty minutes. We finally started boarding an hour after scheduled takeoff. I got comfortable in my exit row seat, setting out my water bottle and Kindle. After about twenty minutes of reading Sherlock Holmes I realized boarding had stopped, and the plane was still half empty. Just as I was thinking there was no possible way we were ready to go, the pilot announced that there was a maintenance issue and we had to de-plane. The whole plane trooped off to the new gate, heading in mass to the airtrain.

We waited close to an hour, then finally got on the new plane. (2.5 hours after scheduled departure.) We all get settled back in, the plane takes off, and we think we are good to go. I doze off a bit, glad to be on my way. Suddenly I hear a loud bang that shakes the aircraft, and I jerk up from sleep. Looking around, the other passengers are also clearly baffled. Immediately the plane starts turning, but it took about ten minutes for the explanation to come. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had a bird strike and have to head back to DFW.” We all look at each other in amazement. We have to circle for a while, and I realized why when fire trucks and police cars fall in behind us, following us to our gate. The flight attendant told me that the large bird hit the co-pilot’s windshield. (I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been!)They have us stand up to deplane, then site down while maintenance takes a look, then finally have us deplane fully.

At this point it is four hours past scheduled departure. If we left right then the flight would arrive at 12:30am. But instead we waited, and waited, and waited some more for information. Finally I called American Airlines customer service to see if I could just fly home, but the last flight of the night was overbooked. Eventually the gate agents send us down the terminal to yet another gate, where we wait for another plane. We board, we’re all ready to go, but we sit. I have to tell you, after all of this we were all pretty tired of sitting. Eventually the flight attendant comes on and says they are waiting for catering but don’t know how long it will take. She then says, “In 45 minutes your crew will become illegal. Do you want to wait for catering, or just go ahead and go?” Everyone yells, “Let’s go!” So off we went, a full six hours after our scheduled departure time. The flight is uneventful, we arrive at 3am, and I made it to my hotel right before 4am.

The next day my meeting went great and my flight home was uneventful. But I sure was tired!

Readers, have any crazy flights recently?

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  1. Bird strikes are fairly common. I had one at night, at 9000′, during my night x country, part of the training for a PPL. Then my instructor made me do 4 night landings at ONT with goop on the windshield. It wasn’t obscuring visibility .

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