Some days I actually do work. But it’s not the work you would assume. It’s not fighting nasty storms or battling windshear down the final approach to an icy runway. It’s interacting with the passengers and assuring them that at some point we will arrive at our destination.
I like that part of the job. To my flight attendant friends I say this. “Yes, I know. When things get tough I get to close the bullet proof cockpit door. Your job is way harder than ours!”
So, I only work a little bit but it is the part of the job I really enjoy and the reason why I’ve never really been drawn to the world of cargo flying. They say “Boxes don’t complain” but it’s these types of fires I enjoy putting out.
Our 12:30 flight boarded on time yesterday and we began our taxi although I had a hunch we’d be delayed. Nothing official yet, I just had a hunch. We were off to Washington’s Reagan airport and both Baltimore and Washington Dulles bound flights had been issued a delay. Our destination was between the two. Either some weird weather or a weather force field was erected over the nation’s capital?
Seconds before reaching the end of the runway for departure they told us what we were expecting, “Update in an hour.”
We rode it out in the holding pad near the runway and as the hour wait ended they said, “Update in another hour.”
And back to the gate we go. At the conclusion of that hour we were told once again, “Update in an hour.”
I mingled with the passengers and did my best to explain the weather pattern to those who were interested and how it affected arrivals and the effect it would have on their connections. I went into the stages of thunderstorm development and described condensation nuclei.
A passenger told me I looked like a good pilot but I assured her it was the crispness of my uniform that fooled her. “Don’t look at my shoes” I suggested.
After five hours it was time to go. The update in an hour became a departure time and we boarded for Washington. Naturally, after beginning our taxi we were given a reroute to avoid the weather that was now in our way. This was the same weather that had closed the airport.
A reroute means more fuel which means another delay.
The new route doubled the distance between here and there. What was to be a 300 mile flight became a 650 mile trip.
Portland to Washington via Pittsburgh.
I told the passengers. “Well, thanks for your patience on the ground through our five hour delay and now the extra minutes we will need to get more gas. By the way, our one hour flight will now take two.” The sound of a crying baby penetrated the walls of the bullet proof cockpit door.
As I made the announcement about the new delay I figured the passenger was rethinking her compliment. Maybe next time there is a weather delay I will get my shoes shined.