Two Unscheduled Landings

Date:         04 Jun 97 01:45:41 
From:         M Carling <m@ml.com>
Organization: Merrill Lynch
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During the month of May, I made two unscheduled landings, one for
medical reasons and the other for mechanical reasons. I normally don't
post trip reports, but these seemed far enough out of the ordinary to
justify an exception.

The first diversion occured at about 5:00am on the 4th of May on LH405,
which had departed EWR for FRA on the 3rd. I was seated in 1A when the
Captain announced (in German) that any doctor on board should identify
himself to a FA. I got up and (hoping that there was a doctor on board)
identified myself as a former medic. Fortunately, there was a German
speaking doctor onboard, as a German (only) speaking pax had suffered a
mild heart-attack. I was of virtually no help whatsoever. The decision
was taken to land at Dublin, and the doctor and patient (with the
Captain) both walked off the plane. The Captain then had to deal with
about an hour of paperwork. Once the paperwork was done and the Captain
was released back to the plane, we had to wait another hour for 20,000
liters of fuel to be loaded. We landed at FRA about two hours late.

The second diversion occured at about 1:00pm (CDT) on UA15, which had
departed JFK for LAX, on the 30th. There were a number of strange things
about this flight, beginning while we were taxiing. I was sitting in 10F
which is a business class aisle seat separated from the window by a
small table. It is the only seat in row 10, and a very nice seat. A FA
came and said "Mr. Carling, I'm afraid we can't let you sit there.
Operations radioed the Captain, and instructed us to move you to First
Class." I protested "But we're on an active taxiway. Surely you don't
want me to get up now." The FA replied. "OK, as soon as we're airborne,
we'll come and move you." I thought this was most odd, as I've never
been upgraded so late before. Often while already seated but before the
door has closed, but never after the door had closed and the plane has
pushed back. So, as soon as the FAs were up and about (and well before
the Fasten Seatbelt light was switched off) the FA came back and moved
me to seat 2E.

About an hour later the Captain announced that the left hydraulic system
had a leak, had been shut down and, as a result, we would be landing at
ORD for repairs. The Captain explained that having only two of three
hydraulic systems was not a problem, but that he was worried about where
the fluid might have leaked to. This caused a bit of alarm amongst some
of the more worrisome pax. Then the Captain asked the FAs to suspend the
meal service and clear everything with 20 minutes. The FAs then rushed
around, hurriedly clearing everything, which caused a bit more alarm
amongst the pax.

We landed without incident, and taxied to Gate C9. One (and later,
briefly a second) Custmer Service Agent came to help about 200 pax
figure out what to do. No information was announced at this point, and
the Customer Service Agent stood in the ramp and answered questions on
an individual basis. I stood nearby and listened carefully. In the
natural process of pax asking each other what was going on, several
asked questions of me, and I answered them. Others noticed this and,
being typical clueless pax, thought I must work for UA. So they actually
formed a queue to talk to me. I just asked them their final destination
and, if it was anywhere but LA, I advised them to get there via anyplace
but LA (usually DEN or SFO), warning that their checked luggage would
stay with the aircraft. Several were able to get non-stops from ORD, and
I directed two groups of Hawaii bound pax (and one Hong Kong bound) to
the next flight to SFO, from whence they could catch a flight to
Hawaii/Hong Kong. One fellow headed for LA asked me whether he should
get on a flight to Las Vegas, and I dissuaded him. I also tried to
explain what they could expect regarding their baggage, without being
able to make an commitments. There were loads of other sorts of
questions and sometimes I had to direct the pax to the CS Agent, but
most were easy enough to answer. One woman just wanted someone to tell
her that she was lucky to be alive. I was unable to help her.

When the onslaught had receded, the Customer Service agent approached
me, and said she had noticed what I had been doing, and that sending the
HNL pax through SFO had been a good idea, and would I consider working
for UA. I declined the suggestion, and she thanked me, and gave me a $25
travel certificate.

The mechanics replaced the hose which had been leaking (they wouldn't
let me have the old one). We departed ORD with about half our original
pax (most of whom had been waiting in the terminal, trying to get on
other flights). The food couldn't be served because they had been unable
to keep it chilled during the two hours we were on the ground. (They had
done a meal service onboard while we were on the ground for the few
dozen pax who had remained onboard, but I was too busy to partake.) So I
had one last first that day: an Economy class boxed snack served on a
First Class plate.

M Carling