Monday, February 27, 2006

One More Thing

Tonight, February 24th, was one of those times when things kept going wrong.  As soon as I got to the jet for a JFK-San Fran flight I saw a mechanic in the flight deck reading our thick dispatch manual.  He told me that the aft lavatories had a leak and he could not trouble shoot the problem in time for our departure.  The flight was only half full so we decided to go with only two lavatories.  Seems like a simple decision but these things once approved by me start a paper trail that goes all the way back to the central operations center.  That place looks like a military control center out of a Tom Clancy novel.  After being approved by the Grand Dynamo of Lavatory Control, we were cleared to go.  During pushback our tug driver got so confused as to where we needed him to take us that I had to tell him things like, “Put your drive in reverse, follow that yellow line behind you, go left, go more left, that’s good, don’t be afraid, you’re doing fine.” All at the lightning speed of about 5 mph.  We finally got started and taxied out under ships power, glad to be free of tug man.  It was not a busy night; we ended up being about number 10 for takeoff.  As you approach the number one position you need to be ready to go.  Sitting on the ground doesn’t do any of us good.  You want to get where you’re going, it burns precious fuel, and it’s not as fun as being in the sky.  Just as we were cleared onto the runway, a warning light came on telling us one of our pressure doors was not locked.  I called the flight attendant station at that door and told her what we had.  She went to cycle the door lever.  At that moment in time the tower cleared us for takeoff.  The copilot informed the tower what our situation was.  At that moment the light went out and I told the flight attendant it worked.   The copilot told the tower we were ready to go.  There was no response from tower. He tried again and no response.  I tried and no response.  Just then the door light came on again.  I called the same flight attendant and she went to cycle the door again.  There we were sitting in the takeoff position and the control tower was not responding to any of our radio calls.  At this point we had been on the runway for about 45 seconds, an eternity with no communication.  When you are on tower frequency no one else talks except the tower and the aircraft taxiing on to or on the runway.  It was either towers problem or ours. The radio problem was ours.  Just then the door light went out again, pressure door problem resolved.  A minor mechanical problem had occurred in the copilot’s microphone switch keeping his microphone button engaged, thereby rendering all communication impossible.  That took us another 15 seconds.  When the copilot disconnected from the primary communication system, the voice of a very agitated tower controller was saying our call sign.  All he had heard from the copilot before his microphone got stuck was, “Tower *****234 has a problem.”  Then the tower heard nothing for over a minute.  I told the tower our problem was resolved, we had a stuck microphone, and were ready for takeoff. We immediately received our takeoff clearance and took to the sky none too soon.  The flight to San Fran was uneventful.  The sky was exceptionally clear with a magnificent star field and a few shooting stars.  We could see the lights of the San Fran bay area in western Nevada.  Be Safe, FlyGuy.


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