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‘Leavin’ on a jet plane,’ or not

By Staff | Dec 24, 2017

John Denver wrote the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” He sang it, too, but the most famous version is by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Maybe you are too young to know any of these singers. Or the song.

But sometimes leaving on a jet plane doesn’t work, because the jet doesn’t go anywhere.

I had that happen to me this past Sunday in Sacramento, California. And it was all because of that fire and blackout at the Atlanta airport. And, no, I was not flying to Atlanta. So you are probably wondering why I was stuck in Sacramento due to an electrical failure in Atlanta. You are not the only one.

It seems my Delta Airlines jet in Sacramento had sprung a leak somewhere. Now, I am not a mechanic, but I am pretty sure that is not a good thing.

For the next two and a half hours our copilot kept us informed of every detail of what was going on. I suspect he was bored and had nothing else to do, because, well, the plane wasn’t leaving.

The leak was around an area where there were five bolts holding some mechanical thing in place.

The local mechanic there in Sacramento decided he would try tightening the five bolts. That didn’t work. So, he tried taking the bolts out and putting in a new seal and using five new bolts.

Nope, no go. Still had a leak.

He was out of ideas so he had to place a call to the head mechanics at Delta headquarters. Which, of course, is located in, you guessed it, the Atlanta airport.

The copilot filled us in on all the details going on in Atlanta. The fire that burned the electrical cables, the whole airport without power, hundreds of planes stranded unable to land or takeoff.

We felt their pain. We couldn’t take off either.

Finally after two hours of sitting there in the plane, still at the gate, the flight attendant made the announcement that we were all to disembark from the plane, because the leak couldn’t be fixed. And no one knew when (or if) we would get another flight out of Sacramento to Minneapolis.

We were to take all our luggage and everything else with us as we left the plane. That meant, we all thought, that we were going to have to sleep in the airport that night.

But, after the first class folks were out of the plane and the first few rows of the regular class folks were just leaving, the copilot came back on and said something like “hold your horses, ladies and gentleman, please return to your seats the mechanic thinks he has the leak fixed.”

I had just taken my carryon bag out of the overhead compartment. So I heaved it back up into place.

Despite the announcement, it was still a while before we left. The pilots had to inspect the repair I guess, and then wait for the plane’s log book to come back from the mechanic.

I was joking that I hoped he hadn’t fixed that darn leak with a wad of chewing gum. The joke did not get a big laugh.

After another half hour, we were finally on our way for the four hour trip to Minneapolis. Those poor souls who were catching a flight out of the Twin Cities to somewhere else were out of luck.

It all reminded me of another time when we flew from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Except that we had to take a variety of planes.

The flights included one from Chattanooga to Memphis, Memphis to St. Louis, St. Louis to Minneapolis and then finally Minneapolis to Sioux Falls.

Except that last part didn’t happen. A bird had broken the windshield of the plane we were to take from the Twin Cities to Sioux Falls. And there was not another one that night.

But, an enterprising ticket agent clicked on her computer for a while and found a solution for us.

We got on another plane out of Minneapolis and flew back to St. Louis (where we had just been), then caught a little plane ride from St. Louis to Sioux Falls. We still had a one and a half hour drive home in our car.

All told that trip home took us just shy of 18 hours. We could have driven it in 15 hours. For a fourth the cost.

So maybe you want to know why I was in Sacramento in the first place.

Well, I had received a gift of a trip to California for the weekend, so I could go to the new Star Wars movie at the same theater in Stockton California I had seen the last couple of ones with my son and grandson who live out there.

It has become kind of a tradition, you see. And it really was a wonderful, awesome trip.

Except for that ‘leaky jet plane that wasn’t going anywhere for quite a while’ thing. But at least I am grateful that wad of gum held out for the whole trip.