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  • Patricia Northrup

The Dark and Stormy Night…..Part 2

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

Where were we?  Oh, my screens just reappeared for the second time.  This is where I start thinking from the hearing backward.  “So how many times do the screens have to go off before you think they may not come back?” There is no right answer…I need to start developing an answer and the only way I can do that is through information.

I give the First Officer the duties to fly the airplane and to communicate with Air Traffic Control.  We have the ability to contact our Flight Dispatcher through an app on our IPAD.  Ahhh my airpods……..I pull those out and try to connect them to the IPAD……no go…..they just will not connect.  Love/hate relationship with technology tonight. option…..fancy David Clark Headset…..bought it because it also has a bluetooth function.  Ok….connected……”Hi dispatch?”……as I start my conversation, all of a sudden, I lose him…everything goes dead…..I look at my screens……whew….all is fine with the airplane.  What is this red light on my headset?  Oh the batteries died on my headset and the dispatcher is talking on the IPAD speaker to nobody…..”Hang on”, I yell…..”  I try to keep him engaged while I change my batteries…..ok….seriously….of all times for those batteries to die??  OK……2 AA’s and he’s back and I can hear him loud and clear.  He patches me on with Maintenance and I gather information, enough to know what I am going to do if something permanent happens to my screens.  Well, at least it is the First Officers leg to fly and his screens are behaving just fine.

As we get closer to RDU, our dispatcher is keeping us updated on possible fields to divert to as well as the weather enroute. Remember that “average” weather radar?  Well, we are getting bumped around pretty good trying to pick our way through a line of thunderstorms in Mississippi and Alabama. The visibility at RDU is also not good.   It is at the minimums needed to fly the lowest instrument approach….oh wait.  I have less than 100 hours as a Captain so I am restricted.  We cannot go into RDU unless we get a special exemption and the Captain has to fly the approach……uggghhh…..more paperwork.  (You cannot make this stuff up!!)  Now is where I have to balance the ultimate conservative approach of calling it quits now, just diverting and landing or making calculated decisions that mitigate risk and complete the job of getting these passengers safely to RDU.  I decide to continue.  It is the harder of the two decisions but the one I ultimately feel that I am paid to do.  I play in my mind all of my actions, research, decisions and conclude that I have balanced all of the competing needs as best I can…..the hypothetical “hearing” will go fine.

We pick our way through the weather, get bounced all over the place on approach and break out right at the minimums to see the runway and I roll on a nice landing. 

I have never been so happy to park an airplane in my 20 years at American.  Everyone in the back of the airplane had no idea of the challenges that this flight presented to me and the First Officer but that is how it should be.  As I reflect on the entire night, as a crew, we broke at least 5 potential error chains, which is doing our job to the best of our ability.  We did it and we did it really well all on a “Dark and Stormy Night”.

1 Comment

Edith Hamilton
Edith Hamilton
Oct 17, 2023

Wow – if you’re the captain, I would want to fly with any time, in any weather. I admire your skill and your ability to remain calm under pressure.P

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