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Back in 1996 (around this time of year) I was in NYC. Now I had to get back to Atlanta. A naive person might imagine since the invention of the aeroplane this is a minor detail. I was indeed booked on a 9.30am Delta flight from La Guardia to Hartsfield. Do I need to add that Hartsfield is Delta’s major base? Do I need to add that Delta allegedly run 4 flights a day between La Guardia and Hartsfield? So, I’m on the first of four flights that day but no… I wind up on the 6-30pm one because effing Delta “consolidate” all four onto the final flight.

So, eventually I get on this MD-80 and am chucked a bag of nibbles by an extremely bored looking FA (I suspect she wanted to get back to ‘lanta too). But to crown it all we are exiting the holding pattern over Hartsfield and coming in and then we just zoom climb. The captain sounded shaky on the intercom but bloody hellskis I never knew an MD-80 could climb like a Sabre. It was emotional I can tell you. Instinctively my girlf grabbed my hand. But not too tight.

What had happened was that a 767 was crossing the runway and our pilot had seen it just in the nick of time, yanked the stick back and went balls to the wall with the throttle. Well, it took another 45 minutes of orbit to get a slot and I felt Like the Pope when I finally de-planed. Never has this goodly Earth seemed so… er, goodly.

Well, it would appear Delta has bought up 49% of Virgin Airlines. Great! I wouldn’t trust Delta to fly a kite.

And me reporting this on this of all days.


  1. John Galt says:

    I had a similar experience with a British Midland DC-9 flight from London to Leeds/Bradford around Christmas 1993.

    There was low cloud / fog covering the hill that Leeds/Bradford is built on (which idiot builds a flocking airport on the top of a flocking hill in flocking Yorkshire?), so the pilot decides at the last minute to abort the landing and we end up rocketing hell-for-leather back into the wild blue yonder.

    About 5-minutes after the abort, we get told we’re landing at Teeside Airport and getting a bus back to Leeds/Bradford.

    All-in-all, it would have been quicker to get the bus from London to Leeds, frightening, expensive & frustrating.

  2. Sam Duncan says:

    Pfft. You don’t know you’re born. The last time I flew, it was on a Dart Herald (it might have been that very plane) to the Isle of Man. I’d rather swim. This was 1979 (no, I don’t get around much) but it felt like we were back in the ’30s. I’m sure the adults couldn’t walk upright, and you couldn’t hold a conversation. Mind you, we were next to the engines, but then so was everybody. I was amazed to find there was one still flying 20 years later.

  3. NickM says:

    A Dart Herald, to the IoM dear sweet Jebus!

    Oddly enough, I have never been on anything with props. I quite fancy the DH Dragon Rapide they have at Duxford mind.

    John, as you might know the DC-9 is of the same kidney as the MD-80, latterly known as the Boeing 717.

  4. Mr Ed says:

    I flew Air Algérie from Algiers to Tindouf (deep in the Algerian Sahara) in December 1989 and back. There were no pre-boarding security checks either way, I assumed that the government’s plan was to end hijacks with shoot-outs, and the baggage reclaim at Tindouf was a trolley full of bags pushed to one side of a wall about 20 feet long with a hole in it, which was near the ‘plane stand. The idea was the staff shoved the bags through the hole in the wall but the passangers soon simply walked round the wall and liberated baggage direct from the trolley.

    On the way back, thin but unbroken cloud rendered the unlit runway closed to civil jets, whereas a Mig 21 (I think) was taking off, and my ‘plane rumbled overhead above the cloud before diverting to the nearest friendly airport, some 400 km away. We were then told to come back next day, duly did so, and my fellow queueing passangers (all soldiers) got excited when Antonov transporter turned up, but luckily they were going to some other desert stinkhole, and a Boeing turned up shortly afterwards, there being no working signs. The food onboard was good mind. I’m fairly relaxed about most flying, knowing how obsessive the checks are on UK civil aircraft and their components.

    BTW I’ve read reports that a Shackleton will soon be flying in the UK again, 10,000 rivets in close formation

  5. Laird says:

    Re Nick’s story, it sounds like a problem with air traffic control at Hartsfield (an airport I truly hate, by the way), not the pilot. In fact, it sounds like you got a good one there.

    Delta is no worse than any other airline (at least, in the US; I can’t speak to other parts of the world). Personally, I think USAirways is the worst, but that’s probably only because I flown on it more than any other. I’ve often said that being a pathological liar is a prerequisite to getting a job with them; they never tell you the truth about anything.

    My favorite experience with USAir (as it was then called) was flying from Pittsburgh to DC one morning. DC was fogged in, so after circling for an hour or so they simply diverted the plane to Boston. No reason other than that’s where they needed the equipment next. We were shoved off the plane and told to find our own way to wherever it was we were going. Fortunately my companions and I were able to find another airline and get to DC by mid-afternoon. Of course, the meetings we were to attend had to be rescheduled, and we had to find a hotel and stay an extra day, but what does USAir care about ay of that?

  6. Julie near Chicago says:

    There was a time when Delta was known far & wide as the safest American airline.

    See? That Dart Herald has an upside-down bathtub on top. (Admittedly, a small, shy one–perhaps a prototype.) I told you so.

    Stretch -9: Most beautiful airplane ever made. Slender as a needle, threading through the sky…silver in the sun…from the ground you can barely make out the engines, so you only see the shaft, and the hint of wings.


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