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Traveling Adventures

Tuesday through Thursday of this week took my on my first trip ever to Seattle, WA. Several of us from work were headed out to talk to the big airplane manufacturer from that area. And hey, Seattle was nice. Very nice. The trip there, however… well, it was an adventure.

I departed the Eastern Iowa Airport at 6:55 am and took a little turboprop up to Minneapolis. From there, we had a connection on Northwest Airlines to get to Seattle. At this point in our little drama, I”ll let the pilot handle our narration.

9:25 am

“Hi folks, this is your captain here from the flight deck. We have to wait just a couple of minutes for air traffic control spacing, then we’ll be on our way.”

9:35 am

“Hi folks, your captain here again. The ATC spacing wasn’t going to take this long… but while we were sitting here, the self-test on one of our electronic devices indicated a fault with a battery… so we’re going to have to turn back to the terminal and get maintenance to look at it.”

9:45 am

“Hi folks, your captain again. To do this repair, we’re going to have to ask that you all deplane while the maintenance crew works on the plane. You can leave your personal items here on the plane, but we’ll need to ask you to deplane for a little while. Thanks.”

10:30 am

“For those of you on Northwest Airlines Flight 171 to Seattle, we have some good news, the battery has been replaced and everything seems to check out, so we’re going to get ready to reboard the plane at this time…”

11:30 am

The airplane takes off en route to Seattle.

12:03 pm

“Hello folks, your captain here again… we’ve had a minor hydraulics issue, really nothing to worry about, it’s just a redundant system, but we’re going to have to turn back and land at Minneapolis.”

“I’d apologize, but that would infer that we did something wrong up here… so we’re going to have to fly around an hour or so to burn off some fuel so we can land. So sit tight and I’ll get back to you in a little while.”

1:37 pm

“Hi folks, your captain here again… it took us a little longer to burn off fuel than we thought. But now we’re headed back in to land at Minneapolis. When we land, you’ll probably see some fire and rescue units on the runway there waiting for us. It’s just a precaution. They’re very cautious there at Minneapolis and the trucks aren’t really needed but they’re going to have them out anyway, haha.”

“Now, one of the few things that was affected by this hydraulics issue was the steering on the nose wheel. That means that we won’t be able to taxi off of the runway, so they’ll have to bring a tug out to pull us in. So, it’s not a big deal, but it’ll take a little while. So sit tight, and thank you for your patience.”

At this point the plane comes in and lands, and it’s a very tough landing. Well, the landing is OK, but the thrust reversers don’t kick in on landing, and the pilots have to stand on the brakes to get the plane to stop. Finally the plane pulls to a stop and yep, there are the fire trucks.

1:53 pm

“Hi folks, about this little delay… one of the things that happens when we land like that is that we used our brakes quite a bit and so they got kind of warm. And it’s nothing to worry about, not a big deal, but the folks here at Minneapolis are very cautious, ha ha, and they want to watch them for a few minutes as they cool down. So sit back and relax, and they’ll have us to the terminal in just a few minutes. Thanks.”

2:02 pm

The tug attaches to the plane, and slowly and jerkily pulls it around to a gate on the far end of the Northwest Airlines terminal. Finally it slows to a stop.

“Flight attendants, disarm doors and prepare for arrival.”

2:07 pm

“Flight attendants, re-arm the doors!”

2:11 pm

“Hi folks… Those of you on the left side of the aircraft may be seeing a little bit of smoke out your windows. It’s OK, it’s not a big deal. The plane is fine. But it appears that the tug that pulled us in got a little warm and caught fire, so the emergency guys appear to have that under control, and we should be deplaning shortly.”

“Flight attendants, disarm doors and prepare for arrival.”

2:20 pm

“Hi folks, we’re about ready to get you off the plane here. If you’re a first-class passenger, when you get off, head to gate F7 for your courtesy package. The rest of you, we’ll have a courtesy package with some meal vouchers here at the gate. We are planning on having another plane ready for you to depart again here shortly, our current scheduled departure time is now 3:40 pm.”

At this point, the story becomes less eventful. A new plane is found, and we make it to Seattle at 5:30 pm Seattle time, only about 5 hours later than originally planned.

One of my co-workers on the plane was formerly a Delta airlines pilot and has thousands of hours in 757s. He spoke to our pilot afterward and found out that the main hydraulic system had totally failed shortly after takeoff. That means that in addition to not having nose-wheel steering, we only had electrical power for the flaps (allowing only 20 degrees of flaps instead of the usual 30 degrees), we didn’t have much in the way of thrust reversers, and there was an assortment of other pieces that were disabled. My co-worker said that there are about six pages of checklists that the pilots have to go through before landing in that condition. Yikes.

Here’s to hoping that our next trip to Seattle (scheduled for the first week of August) is slightly less eventful.


  1. Amber Amber

    oh boy!!
    1) very glad everyone is safe!
    2) laughed pretty hard at that dialogue! : )

    great story

  2. Rebecca Rebecca

    That’s kind of scary! I’m glad things turned out ok in the end but I think that many hours of delay would frustrate me to no end. Heh 🙂 I’m glad you’re back!!! I’m going to call you sometime today, but I just wanted to let you know that I do have tomorrow night off work so we should be good to go 😉 Dinner for baby-sitting? Where do I sign. Luv ya

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