OPINION: Air travel has its moments

Maybe it's because I'm older, but here lately air travel has become much more attractive to me than driving long distances by car.

Case in point: A while back we wanted to go see our daughter and her family in North Carolina. We decided that instead of enduring two days of hard driving, we would instead put up with three hours in the air. We did have to go through Atlanta to get to Raleigh-Durham, because ... Delta (Delivering Every Living Thing through Atlanta). But any difficulties along the way were worth it.

That being said, air travel does have its moments.

Many years ago, Tammy and I were returning from a trip to the east coast when we were routed through Memphis on our way to Little Rock. It was a bitterly cold, snowy winter day and we were on the last leg of what had been an uneventful trip. Until we started pulling back from the gate in Memphis.

The plane stopped. Then started pulling back into the gate. A minute later the captain made an announcement on the PA. "Well, folks, we've got a little problem up here in the cockpit. There's a little red warning light flashing up here. Now we don't think it's working properly, but just to be sure, we're gonna have someone check it out, and then we'll be on our way."

Twenty minutes later the plane started to pull back from the gate so we assumed the problem had been fixed. But then the plane stopped ... again ... and pulled back into the gate. The captain came on ... again. "Well, folks, it seems we have way too much fuel for our short hop to the Rock, so we're gonna have to take some off."

A few minutes later, tanker trucks arrived near the wings of the DC-9 and hooked up to off load the fuel. At the same time, a tanker truck with a cherry picker attached began spraying the wings with deicing fluid, a precautionary measure, as we were about to fly into the snow and whatever else was up there in the clouds.

Twenty minutes later, the plane was pulling back from the gate again when I heard the voice of what appeared to be an octogenarian lady somewhere near the back of the plane.

"Martha, I smell gasoline. Don't you smell gasoline? Yes, it smells just like gasoline. Do you think they know it smells like gasoline."

There was a sudden flurry of activity that included several passengers, all of the cabin crew and eventually the captain himself. But I noticed the plane was not taxiing back to the gate, but toward the runway. I also noticed that Martha's friend was suddenly very quiet.

Eventually the captain came back on the PA. "Well, folks, we're on our way to Little Rock. You may have noticed the airport maintenance personnel spraying deicer on the wings. Now, some of the components of the deicing fluid smell like gasoline and some of that smell may have gotten into our vents, but rest assured that y'all are perfectly safe. Thanks again for flying Delta."

There was scattered applause, some high fives and a general feeling of relaxed tension as we took off down the runway. And Martha's friend didn't utter another word all the way to Little Rock.

And I'm certain the zip ties and duct tape I saw the cabin crew carrying toward the back of the plane in Memphis had nothing to do with that.

Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (OK, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected].