By Chuck Pattinian
We left our house in upstate New York for the Buffalo airport some 70 miles away in a thunderous rain storm and a luminous sky. It was 5:45 am. The wind shear was angry and relentless as we fish tailed towards the neon lights of the big city. The faulty windshield wipers and the low tire light on the dashboard had me mentally preparing a guest list to our funeral. We were hell bent for metal because we had to get back to Mexico within 60 days since leaving in order to satisfy our visa requirements. We were in our 59th day of procrastinating.
Snarling along the rain drenched, twisting county roads to the airport took forever. The oncoming trucks splattered additional rain onto the already overworked faulty wipers. As the trucks whizzed by, their induced wind gusts that followed rattled our souls and seemed to lift the car from the pavement and rearrange our inner plumbing. Fortunately out of the storm the airport sign was suddenly in front of us and the funeral guest list was mentally erased.
To our surprise, there were virtually no line ups at check-in or security. In fact, very few people were around anywhere. It seemed like a Hollywood film set for “White House Down”, too unreal to be true. There was no filming going on, just an emptiness caused by media hype that persuaded timid travelers to stay home.
We were late in boarding our NYC bound plane and then waited on the tarmac as La Guardia was in a “no grounding” lock down. No clear reason was given, just indistinguishable aviation jargon which we surmised was weather based. We finally lifted off 40 minutes later for a 90 minute flight. Within 50 minutes we were on the ground and by some miracle, arrived at the originally scheduled arrival time. The math just didn’t add up. The only way the pilot could have pulled this off was to take the Canadair CRJ commuter aircraft to Mach 2, a speed just below that of sound.
The closest I’ve been to Mach 2 is my friend’s 1967 Mach 1 Mustang. Ford’s Mach 2 never made it past prototype into production. Did our aircraft actually do Mach 2 or were we subjected to a Star Trek time warp capsule? Ah, what the hell, have a drink and let the math puzzle pass.
Our next leg was from La Guardia to Atlanta. A deja vous crept over the aircraft as we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes. This time, no aviation jargon as to why the delay, just silence from the intercom. I think I would have preferred the meaningless aviation jargon, gives me something to mumble about. Our original flight time of 3 hours and 12 minutes to Atlanta, took 2 hours and 27 minutes. Once again we arrived at the originally scheduled time. How can this happen? Perhaps two Mach 2’s in the same day?
The airline explanations to the unsuspecting non aviation public ran the gamut of tail winds, atmospheric vortexes, aerodyne lift vectors, full throttle and uncrowded skies. It’s all mumbo jumbo to me. I’d prefer to have had Dragnet’s Joe Friday on my flight who often said: “Just the facts, ma’am, errrr, Captain.” Since Joe no longer walks this earth, I’ll stick with the Star Trek time warp explanation that I grew up with when I was a kid: “Beam me up, Scotty.”
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