If the final twenty four hours of my last trip were the norm, I’d hang up the career. Really, I would. I love to fly and I love my new job. But, sometimes I just want to pull the remaining blond and gray hairs right out of my head. The trip itself was enjoyable. The commute home was beyond frustrating.
On the first day, we flew three legs. After a Las Vegas turn, we headed up to Seattle for a nice long layover. On day two, we started the shift to the back side of the clock.
We left in the early evening. On the way down to San Francisco, I watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
We sat in SFO for a few hours. Then, we departed on a red-eye flight for Boston. A few hours later, I watched the sun rise again on the eastern horizon. It sat dead center in the windshield for the remainder of the flight.
After landing, we hurried to the hotel to get some sleep.
I was tired enough to sleep all day. I woke up, got ready, and went back over to the airport for the eight o’clock flight back to San Francisco. I landed the Airbus at SFO around midnight Pacific Time.
It was Friday night and I really wanted to get home to see my son play baseball on Saturday morning. Since I’d slept all day, there was no need to go to a hotel. I decided to stay up, work on my laptop, and watch a little television. I was still wide awake.
So, I ventured up to the crew room. The place looked like it had been ransacked. We are moving to Terminal 2 in SFO later this week. The television had already been moved! That should have been a hint… I should have gone straight to a hotel.
I spent some time on the computer and made a call to list myself on a 6:00am flight. At 2:30, I walked over to the 24-hour Subway in the United terminal. It was actually pretty busy. At that point, I enjoyed my sandwich and was still in a very good mood. My plan to get home to watch baseball was coming together nicely.
At 4:30, I walked over to a different terminal to check-in for my flight on another airline. Not surprisingly, I was the first one at the gate.
Check-in went normal… I was the only one requesting a jump-seat. They gave me a seat in the cabin. I met the captain… nice guy. Perfect.
As I walked down the jet bridge, the captain informed me there was a mechanical problem. One of the landing gear struts was leaking. A mechanic would have to diagnose the problem to see if it was within limits.
I asked if the airline had its own maintenance personnel or contract maintenance at SFO. I was trying to gauge how long it would take for someone to look at the problem. The answer? Contract.
Finding a mechanic quickly must have been difficult. A few minutes later, they de-boarded the jet. We were informed that there was another aircraft on the field that would be swapped for the leaky one. I determined it would still be faster than going to a different flight. It took awhile, but I still thought I could see most of the game.
I didn’t consider the lack of tailwind that morning. The flight time was fifteen minutes longer than normal.
I also didn’t consider how Denver approach would handle these guys on arrival. Usually, with winds from the north, aircraft arriving from Estes Park are sent just south of the airport, turned around, and landed to the north. As I looked out the window, I noticed we were flying southeast over the top of the airport. Then, we turned to the south and flew and flew and flew. When we started our turn to the west, I was looking right down at the golf course I play in Elizabeth, CO. That’s about twenty four miles south of the airport. We then flew north for the long final. When we touched down, I realized we landed on 35R… the furthest runway from the gates.
Ok, so I was going to miss a good chunk of the game. But, I would still get to see him play. The captain taxiied at a nice brisk pace, and we were soon at the gate. Everyone got up. Why was the line not moving?
“Ladies and Gentleman, Murphy’s Law has us today. The agent has informed me that the jet bridge has malfunctioned and we need to wait for maintenance to troubleshoot. Thanks for your patience.” I could hear the frustration is his voice.
Twenty five minutes later, the jet bridge docked with the aircraft. When it was my turn to disembark, I hit the ground running. I flew down the escalator, took the train ride, and scurried out to the curb to catch the parking shuttle.
It took twenty minutes to show up.
On the way to the ball field, I hit just about every stoplight.
I pulled into the parking lot as the players and families were walking to their cars. They played great and won the game. The other parents smiled and offered some kind words… my wife had been telling them about my adventure. Exhausted, the reality of what I just put myself through hit me.
I’ve missed too many holidays and birthdays to count. That’s just part of being a pilot. But, this one really stung. I stayed up all night. I had plenty of time. The weather was beautiful in both cities. The flights were not full. Still, somehow, my plan fell apart.
Fortunately, there was another game on Sunday. For that one, I was right on time.