Friday, December 23, 2016

It's The Holiday Season

Photo by Jamien Fisher

Is that Andy Williams I hear singing?  No, it's the sound of deicing fluid pounding against the fuselage below my sliding window.  The left stall vane is covered with ice, as is the rest of the MD-90 after a night of freezing rain in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Flight 1092, the 0715 departure to Atlanta, Georgia was going to be late---by two hours and thirty-seven minutes.  It took over an hour for the deicing crew to clean the airplane with Type I deicing fluid.  As you can see in the picture, it was really caked on!  Applying the final coating of Type IV anti-icing fluid to the wings and tail took exactly four minutes. About an hour and fifteen minutes to make the jet airworthy, after it was all said and done. Of course that was after we made it to the deicing pad.  Just leaving the gate was an adventure.

Twenty minutes before we were scheduled to push back our operations agent called with news that our ramp crew had yet to load any (passenger) bags.  The crew was short-handed, and everything was covered with ice.  Things were moving slow---when they finished with the Minneapolis flight they would head our way. . .  I turned to my first officer, and said:  "This is going to take a while."  He replied:  "Don't I know it, it's really slick out there!"

Slick it was!  During push-back the tug began to fishtail---I could hear the tires spinning through the interphone.  For a moment I thought we might be calling it a day, but the driver recovered nicely.  It takes a special set of skills to push one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of airplane on an icy ramp!  Hats off to the tug driver at Gate 82 at Pittsburgh International airport!

During my thirty year career I can't remember a single Thanksgiving to New Year's travel season that has not been affected by a winter weather event somewhere in North America. This years challenge in the Northeast came eight days before Christmas.  Luckily it was short lived, and there was plenty of time to recover.  Three years ago Frosty the Snowman paid a visit to the Deep South on Christmas Eve.  A lot of folks were late for dinner at Grandma's house that year.  I missed that one, fortunately, but I still have plenty of T-shirts. . .

Not that it mattered much to our passengers, but we were fortunate our delay came at the start of our duty day.  As we were leaving the deicing pad, ground control was directing an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 to a hardstand where it could refuel, following a diversion from Washington's (DC) Dulles International Airport---after an ocean crossing, and a few turns in a holding pattern, I'm sure.

More like The Winter Wonderland Route!