Traveling can always mean problems and in our continuing series about travel nightmares, David Leiss reminds me about the People Movers at Dulles - Washington.
In the mid-1980’s I was scheduled to fly out of Washington Dulles airport on an early morning flight to Chicago on Northwest Airlines to do a technical presentation for a major customer in the Chicago area. At the time Washington Dulles didn’t have any mid-field terminal and to get to the bigger planes you loaded on a people mover which would drive the passengers out to the plane parked on the concourse. The people mover would then lift you up on hydraulic pistons to the door level of the aircraft and the passengers would embark into the plane.
Unfortunately, that morning was unusually cold for this area, below 20 degrees F, and the bus was full. When we got to the plane they made several attempts to lift us up, but nothing would budge. Apparently the combination of the temperature thickened oil and the extra load was too much for the machine to lift. They finally gave up on that, and then decided to bring another people mover and have them butt up against each other and transfer half those onboard to another one in the midfield area. This accomplished, they managed to finally get everyone onboard.
Obviously, we were already well behind our scheduled departure time. And Chicago was busy, as usual, so we had to sit on the plane for another two hours waiting to be released. That being endured, they finally got permission to go, and started the engines in preparation. Then, and I’m not making this up, the pilot came on the PA and said that a window had fallen out of the cockpit! Thus they called the people-movers back to the plane and we all had to be transported back to the terminal.
Of course, once we the terminal, everyone when running for the ticket counters or phones. Remember those days before cell phones. But we didn’t get very far before they made another announcement over airport-wide public address system. “Those passengers on NorthWest flight ___ please quickly return to the people mover.” It turned out that it was some type of plastic cover that had fallen off and the FAA didn’t care if they flew without it. So we had to reassemble back at the “Bus” and reload and get moved to the plane once again. Fortunately, this time, there were no lifting problems.
But, as would be expected, we once again had lost our slot into O’Hare, so we sat for two more hours. Fortunately, the stewardesses did serve free beer, wine and peanuts during this wait. We finally took off, many hours late. There was one more surprise yet to come. After taking off, they announced that the food, a full breakfast, (remember when they used to serve real food?), was too old and they weren’t allowed to serve it to us. So we had to continue to survive on more peanuts and liquid refreshments. Most everyone took the delays pretty well and with a sense of humor, but a cell phone sure would have been nice to have.
David Leiss, Manassas, VA.
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