|I was in New York to drive the all-new Lexus RC F at the Monticello Race Club track.|
I'm not the kind of guy who thinks air travel should be totally absent of an occasional hiccup here or there. I fly anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 miles a year, depending on the volatile largesse of carmakers. (This will be a 50,000-mile year.) When one does that much flying, he should expect a delay or two. I do. I get it. I've even caused more than one delay for myself by volunteering for a later flight to pocket a $300-to-$500 voucher for future travel. Cha-ching!
I don't think, though, that it's good business for any airline that every fourth or fifth leg – a flight between two airports – should be delayed in some shape or fashion. Weather delays that no airline or airport can control should make up the lion's share of schedule interruptions. That, however, does not seem to be the case – at least for Delta.
After 25 years of more-than-average air travel, I am still amazed at the apparently limitless and creative ways my flights are delayed. When you ponder the intricacies of technology required to allow a metal cylinder to become airborne and stay that way, there's a lot that can go wrong. Once again, I get it.
That doesn't mean that my heart doesn't skip a beat when, from my on-board seat, I see a couple of maintenance guys begin scurrying in and out of the aircraft. As my scheduled departure time passes, I am often suddenly catapulted into ass-covering mode, which means a call to Delta on my cell to back myself up on later flights. My angst is dramatically reduced when I don't have to make a connection. If this is the final leg to my ultimate destination, it's just a matter of reconciling myself to a tardy arrival. On the other hand, if this leg is just one in a series of flights, my apprehension ratchets up considerably.
My recent return to Greenville-Spartanburg Airport from LaGuardia in New York, where I was the guest of Lexus driving its all-new RC F, was of the final-destination variety.
When I think of New York City or its airports, I don't get warm fuzzies. I'm not a fan. I could go the rest of my life without returning to NYC, and not lose a nano-second's sleep. But, when a carmaker invites me to an event, I go where the trip takes me – in this case: LaGuardia and NYC.
The flight in was uneventful. In fact, we landed about 20 minutes early. This, of course, caused a bit of confusion with the limo sent to scoop me up and haul me to the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, a city roughly an hour from LaGuardia. It wasn't a big deal, but did eat up the 20-minute time advantage the early arrival provided.
I'm not a fan of any airport where I am forced to leave the gate area, trudge down a flight or two of stairs schlepping my luggage only to squeeze into an over-crowded shuttle bus that drives to the plane. That's how it works at LaGuardia for regional equipment.
We pulled up to our Delta Connection
jet to find a maintenance pickup truck partially blocking our way.
Two maintenance techs were walking around opposite sides of the plane
with flashlights peeking into compartments and open panels. They
would meet at the front or back of the plane, confer and continue on.
Walk, peek, meet, confer, walk, peek, meet, confer....
|Snapped from my seat on the gate shuttle with my iPhone, the pilot and co-pilot discuss last week's Jets game while we stew on the bus. Let them eat cake!|
Eventually the maintenance-vehicle count rose to three and the tech count to five. Mostly the other three techs remained in their vehicles texting or talking on their cell phones as the first two continued wandering around the plane. Occasionally, one of them would board the plane. The pilot and co-pilot were on the tarmac this entire time chitchatting. In the finest Delta fashion, no one was bothering to inform us exactly what was going on. It seems to me the pilot could have torn himself away from his stimulating intercourse with his backup to walk the 20 feet to our bus to tell us what was transpiring. Yep, nope.
We stayed on the bus for nearly 45 minutes watching this circus. Maintenance guys in and out of their vehicles, walking around the plane, peeking into things, conversing and then splitting up as one or two boarded the plane and the rest returned to their vehicles for more texting.
We sat on the bus plane side for so long, the driver's shift ended and his replacement was driven out to take his place. We could hear conversation between the plane, the techs and the gate on the driver's radio. We knew progress wasn't being made.
Finally, the driver received the order to haul us back to the gate. Apparently, the plane's electrical system was down and there wasn't any juice to start the engines.
As we approached the gate, we could see the plane's landing lights wink on. No sooner did the bus coast to a halt at the gate entrance than the driver was ordered to take us back to the plane. Evidently, a large battery was rolled out and the one of the engines was jump started.
As we motored back to the plane, the lady sitting across from me confessed, “I'm not sure I want to get on a plane with no electrical power.”
“It's only an issue when taking off,” I assured her. “It will come down all by itself.”
She looked at me wide eyed. I don't think I calmed her fears.
We finally boarded and rolled down the taxi way about 50 minutes late.
We landed without incident.