By George E. Beetham Jr.
The last time I had flown in a commercial aircraft was in 1964, when I returned from the Philippines while serving in the Army. With all the security issues, I was more than a bit nervous when I went through the security check down at the airport on my way to Alaska.The gentleman manning the metal scanner was patient and seemed to sense my nervousness.
"Is this your first flight?" he asked as I held my pants up with my hands and walked in my stocking feet through the detector.
The first time through set off the alarm. I had to remove my belt because of the buckle.
"No, I flew back in 1964," I said. "I think the plane had two wings and the pilot wore a leather helmet."
He chuckled and waved me through.
I was amazed at how professional and friendly the Transportation Security Agency people were. The security check is one of the necessary things we do to deal with the terrorism threat. We may not like it, but we really need to blame Osama bin Laden for the process. The TSA folks are doing a necessary job.
My flight from Philadelphia to Atlanta was pleasant with no problems. At Atlanta, the captain of the next flight to Seattle addressed the passengers before boarding the plane.
It seemed the fellow operating the jetway had some problems getting it to the plane's door, which was damaged and off its hinges. Flying a plane without a door is not exactly a good idea, so the airline was scrounging around the Atlanta hangars to find a plane that had all its doors, wings, wheels, and a working tail.
They finally found one, and off we went to Seattle.
I was boarding the Alaska Airlines plane in Seattle when the captain joked that I could not take flash photos with my camera. I responded by asking him if the plane had all its doors.
When he looked at me quizzically, I told him about the plane in Atlanta.
"You're kidding," he said. "No, not kidding at all. That's why I got to Seattle so late and barely made this flight on time."
Things went fine the rest of the way, and on the return trip for most of the way. Going into Atlanta, we encountered turbulence that tossed the plane around like a cork riding through rapids.
Even the flight attendants had to strap in as the plane heaved and bounced. A glass of water sitting on the fold down table tipped and doused the woman who had unthinkingly left it there.
Only the seat belts kept us from hitting the ceiling of the plane.
As we disembarked, I told the captain, "You bounced that sucker in nicely." He thanked me for the compliment. Nobody was more concerned about wind shear smacking the plane down too hard than him.
The next leg proved uneventful all the way to Philly. The plane taxied up to the jetway, and there we all sat waiting for the jetway to come out and get the door opened.
It turned out the plane was too far from the jetway. They had to get the tractor that tows planes to come out, back us up, and pull us in closer to the jetway.
As we disembarked about a half hour later, passengers razzed the folks manning the jetway. It turned out the operator was long gone. He had beat a hasty retreat as soon as the door opened.