By DAVE KIFFER
March 04, 2009
The snow had stopped, the sky was a deep glacier blue and you could see the Chilkat Mountains hovering on the horizon, many, many miles away.
It was a great day for flying. Or not.
We boarded Flight 64 well before 2 pm for the "milk run" to Petersburg, Wrangell and, finally home.
Normally, that flight is a bumpy adventure but this day there wasn't a hint of breeze in the air. There would be no extra Alaska Air-robics on this flight.
It was a full combi flight, meaning that we were all shoehorned into the back of the plane with the "cargo" up in "first class" but we've always known where passengers "sit" in the Alaska Air hierarchy.
When 2:15 passed and the plane had not pushed away from the gate, we started to thumb through our in flight magazines a little more nervously.
Then 2:30 passed and the crew told us that there was a "minor" mechanical issue being addressed.
Frankly, when you are talking about cigar-shaped hunk of metal that is designed to carry you at hundreds of miles an hour, farther into the air that you are willing to fall, there are no "minor" mechanical issues.
Such talk reminds me of one of the Apollo astronauts once saying that he was nervous about sitting on top of a rocket in which one million little tiny parts were built by the "lowest bidder."
Anyway, I digress.
At 2:45, the crew apologized again and reported that the plane was being delayed while a "dent" in the cargo door was being examined.
"No one seems to know what caused it," the intercom voiced added cheerfully.
I imagined that a ground crew fork lift operator was being "water boarded" for more information at that very moment.
At 3 pm, they suggested that we get off the plane and head back to the terminal. No one moved.
"The next update will be at 3:45," the voice added, helpfully.
We all moved.
"Oh, and take your carry-ons with you."
That was a sign it was serious. No "we'll re-board shortly" hoo-haw for us.
Back in the terminal we settled in for our wait.
About every half an hour, there would be an announcement telling us when the next announcement would be, usually in a half an hour or so.
Every once in a while, we'd look out the window at the plane. There was a mechanic standing on a lift staring at the cargo door.
He wasn't actually doing anything, mind you. Every time we looked he was just staring.
"How long does it take to fix a dent?" one passenger asked.
"Maybe they are flying a special part up from Seattle," another added.
"They should go to Walmart and get one of those automobile dent poppers,' yet another added.
"Can't they just fix it with duct tape and gorilla glue?" someone else chimed in.
Four o'clock passed. Five o'clock passed,. Six o'clock passed.
More announcements about when the next announcement would be.
My laptop and Mp3 batteries died. I finished all the puzzles in USA Today.
I tried to concentrate on a book, but I kept looking out the window at the mechanic who was staring at the door. Maybe they needed to spray some de-icer on him.
At one point, the intercom voice announced that they were going to test the seal on the door by firing up the engines and pressurizing the plane.
We half expected to hear a large bang and then see the door cartwheeling over the tarmac, but - alas - we heard and saw nothing.
Time continued to pass.
A bunch of folks decided to risk the TSA roulette again and went back out to the cafeteria for supper.
I chewed on a sandwich I had packed for the three-hour stop-go-sit on the ground for a long time trip that is the "milk run." I wondered when the last time it was that Alaska Airlines delivered milk to anyone in Southeast Alaska.
We all assumed that at some point they would just tell us to pack up and head to a hotel for the night. It would sure beat waiting for the announcements about the future announcements.
But instead they called us up the podium and added 1,000 miles to our mileage accounts for our "inconvenience."
Finally, about 7:30, stuff started happening.
They announced that the Juneau to Seattle direct flight would not be direct. They rebooked all of our Petersburg passengers to that flight, which would now have a "stop."
The rest of us waited a wee bit more and where then herded back onto the plane.
We took off and had a smooth flight into Wrangell and then on to Ketchikan with a soft landing that was like a little peck on the cheek of the runway. I assume the Seattle bound passengers continued on pleasantly.
At any rate, the duct tape and gorilla glue held just fine.
And I assume the Wrangell-Ketchikan
bound passengers in Petersburg are still waiting.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
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