December 24, 2009
We got to the Albuquerque International Sunport at 1145am Mountain time for a 1pm flight. Breezed through security while giving the screener a good laugh when he saw the World Market holiday rubber duckies in my carry-on, went right to our gate... and saw that the flight had been delayed until 2pm. Weather at O'Hare was piss-poor and getting worse.
Oh, great. JUST peachy.
Still, we did board at 2pm and did take off at about 215pm, so American Eagle got that part right. A rather bumpy climb to altitude later (it was actually snowing in Albuquerque today), and we were on our way. It was on the descent to O'Hare, however, that the flight took an ugly turn. As soon as we left cruising altitude, we were in the clouds, and we wouldn't escape them until a minute or so before we landed. That, my friends, was not pleasant... not in the least.
Turned out that we had some exciting crosswinds across the runway. It's rather disconcerting to feel the plane heel from port to starboard and back a few times when you're about to touch down, lemme tell ya. We touched down fairly hard, the pilot slammed on the brakes immediately, reversed the engines, threw out the anchor, and even dragged his feet to get us to stop. Slipping and sliding, but eventually we did stop. Then we starting taxiing to our gate... and went right by it. One nice scenic tour of the O'Hare "back lots" later, we approached our gate again... and again, went right by it. WTF??? The Captain then gets on the intercom and says, essentially, that American Airlines couldn't get their act together and there were a few extra jets blocking the gate. Oh joy.
So again, around we went. About halfway through this third circuit, I look out the window and see a BIG PLANE!!! RIGHT THERE!!! MOVING FAST!!! Our pilot slammed on the brakes, the BIG PLANE!!!, a Continental Airlines widebody, slammed on the brakes, and disaster was avoided... but not by enough to suit me, everybody on the right side of the plane, and our collective bladders. Meanwhile, the head flight attendant is chatting on her cellphone and snapping her gum. Oi.
At 7pm Central time (about 2 hours late), we deplaned into chaos. While Ph.Duck went in search of the loo, I found myself chatting to a pilot. According to him, O'Hare had been screwed up all day. Seems flights are scheduled so tightly at the world's busiest (or second busiest, depending on how you measure it) airport that one little problem causes a cascading series of backups and delays... and the weather had been causing havoc. Depending on when you were looking outside, it had been raining, snowing, sleeting, freezing rain, ice storming, rain of frogs, meteorites, hail of fire, you name it. Again, according to this pilot, at one point there were four hour delays on some flights east.
Bladders emptied, Ph.Duck and I went off to catch the bus back to Duckford. When it finally showed up, 20 minutes late, the driver told us that the roads were "sheer ice" and it might take two hours to get home. Well, it didn't... it only took 100 minutes, instead of the hour it usually takes. The roads in Duckford were... well, wet and sloppy. I suspect by sometime on Xmas Eve, they'll be ice rinks. At 1045pm, I walked through the door of Pond Central exhausted, tired, and hungry... and home.
There's no place like it.
P.S. I sat in a train traffic jam back in the day.
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at December 24, 2009 12:52 AM (/ppBw)
And that's assuming no delays, which is about as likely as Steven coming over to The Duck Side...
Posted by: Wonderduck at December 24, 2009 01:51 AM (ffKVz)
Posted by: GreyDuck at December 24, 2009 08:31 AM (o5Lvb)
O. M. G.!!!
Very glad to hear you're finally safe at home. That sounds like it would have made a good sequel to to one of those "Airport" movies.
Posted by: Mallory at December 24, 2009 10:20 AM (WJ2qy)
The controllers lined up the small planes side-by-side on the runway, and single file on the adjacent taxiway. Coordinating by walkie-talkies, the controllers would point at each aircraft in turn with brightly colored batons, then wave them down runway towards the south (luckily the wind was usually favorable). And while this was going on, the east-west runway to the north was handling a steady stream of arrivals and departures.
Posted by: Siergen at December 24, 2009 04:34 PM (hu1Gq)
There's the peak-versus-average comparison. I think I've heard that the peak is on the day of the Texas-Oklahoma football game every year, at that local airport.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at December 24, 2009 07:38 PM (+rSRq)
Posted by: Wonderduck at December 24, 2009 09:59 PM (ffKVz)
Though not all in one go, since it takes about three days...
Posted by: Pixy Misa at December 25, 2009 06:01 AM (PiXy!)
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