A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


"Vacation, all I ever wanted.  Vacation, had to get away" - The Go-Go's
Last week, Ryan, my 13 year old, and I flew to Maryland to visit my mother.  We spent 3 days at the beach at Ocean City, Maryland, and a day and a half in Washington DC.  It was a week of constant motion, as Ryan seems to have an unlimited font of energy.
At Ocean City, we spent lots of time on the beach, walked the boardwalk, ate yummy boardwalk food, and let Ryan ride the amusement rides.  The only ones I do are the carousel and the ferris wheel, as I get motion sickness very easily.  Ryan seemed to especially enjoy the bumper cars.  Playing in the ocean was a lot of fun; it has been years since I played in the ocean, and I had forgotten how much fun it was, and what salt water tastes like.  I had a really hard time leaving the beach when it was time to go.  I brought 50 SPF sunblock and it was a good thing that I had it, as my pale Alaskan skin was not used to all that sun exposure.  I managed to get a little sunburn anyway, especially on the backs of my knees.
In DC, we had great Indian food in Georgetown, and I bought some Godiva chocolate.  We spent a day at the mall (no, not a shopping mall, but a large grassy space with the Washington Monument at one end and the Capitol at the other, with museums and such on the sides) and saw the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and the National Archives. Ryan wanted to climb the 555 steps to the top of the Washington Monument, but we ran out of time.  Then we had dinner in Chinatown.  My feet were sore enough after the museums that I insisted on riding the Metro 4 blocks from the mall to Chinatown instead of walking.
The flight was 9 hours in the air each way, with a layover in Dallas.  Each time, the plane leaving Dallas was delayed due to mechanical problems.  On the way to DC, the plane from Dallas to DC was delayed an hour or so due to a problem with the toilet.  The valve was broken, and I guess they didn't want to drop sewage all the way from Dallas to DC.  Eeew.  On the way back to Alaska, the plane was delayed about 3 hours because of a wiring problem.  It turned out to be absolutely ridiculous.  First we waited while they tried to fix the wiring problem.  Then we waited while they located another airplane (which by the way, was clear across the airport in a completely different terminal). Then we waited while they got that airplane ready and transferred our stuff from the broken airplane.  Then we waited because our "paperwork" had expired and they had to get new "paperwork".  Then we taxied out to the runway, and waited some more because we needed to file a new flight plan.  By the time we finally took off, we were 3 hours late, and everyone on the plane clapped when we got off the ground.  When we got to Anchorage, we waited some more because another plane was parked at our gate.
I guess I find it interesting and concerning that two of the four airplanes I was on had mechanical problems that delayed the flight.  I am not even remotely suggesting that we should have flown with mechanical problems.  No, I would much rather be confident in the plane's ability to reach our destination safely.  What I find concerning is that half of the airplanes had mechanical problems that were not discovered until just before boarding the planes.  We know that the first priority of any corporation is to make a profit.  Are the airlines cutting corners in an effort to scrape by?  Does that put the safety of air travel at risk?  We know that companies do that... look at BP and the recent pipeline leak in Alaska.  They were cutting corners to minimize maintenance costs, and a large leak was the result.  Cutting corners to minimize maintenance costs on passenger airplanes could be lethal.  I hope that is not what is happening.


Anonymous said...

Yes the airlines are trying to cut corners. American is not doing it to the extent the others are since they have a very loyal group of customers who are willing to pay more for the ticket to fly their airline.

However, the safety valve is that the PIC, Pilot in Command, has the final say on whether a plane is airworthy. Pilots by temperment and training tend to be very anal people. I am one. I know. I think that having the flights cancelled last minute is a sign the system works.

Glad you had fun,

Anonymous said...

An additional comment on the anal pilot mentality. You grew up with 2 of the most highly rated test pilots of that time drinking beer at our kitchen table. Yes, they told wild stories where they tried to picture themselves as dare devils and being a teenager you might have belived them, but being extreamly methodical and precise is a precondition for even being accepted at TPS. The best of the best are not the dare devils.

Bob Hover was know as the test pilot's test pilot. His signature manuver when flying the air show circut was to cut power, do 2 loops, land, get out on the wing of his plane and have it roll to a stop 10 feet from the stands. Pure precision. It takes anal, nit picking, attention to detail to do that.

Except for the real fly by night outfits (excuse the pun) where the pilots are afraid of losing their jobs if the company goes bankrupt you can generally count on them to police the system.

Mom again

Favorite Grandma said...

Steven, you look just like your daddy did when he was your age, and grandma thinks you are growing too fast. Grandma loves you and is very happy to see your pictues.