Power to the passengers?

by Matthew Gast

I'm currently delayed on a runway to Atlanta. My flight was originally scheduled for a 4:15 departure. We pulled away from the gate shortly after 5:00, and it's now 6:30. Our delay is so long that we've pulled off to a side area while we wait for Chicago to reopen before departing, and the seat belt sign is off. As pacification, we're also allowed to use electronics.

A good number of folks are working on laptop computers, which is a common enough sight these days. However, wireless WAN access is getting common enough that a notable number of passengers have Internet access. (Obviously, I include myself in that statement, since I'm writing this entry through my GPRS uplink.)

One passenger two rows ahead of me called a meteorologist in Chicago and found out that there was nothing much serious at the airport, and began to question the flight crew about it. They dismissed the passenger's "I'm on the phone with a weatherman in Chicago..." statement as an unsupported assertion.

Rising to the implied challenge, a second passenger went to AccuWeather's O'Hare radar map and pulled up the radar map of the area around Chicago, which didn't show much. For good measure, he also pulled up the North Central regional radar map, which showed storms in Milwaukee and Cleveland, but again, nothing much in Chicago. Nonetheless, I find it amusing that air travelers now have sufficient access to information that they can't be kept totally in the dark. The mantra of "Trust, but verify" has come to my flight out on a lonely corner of Atlanta's tarmac.

(As an unrelated note, at times like these, I curse airlines that don't provide laptop power in the plane, since I'm now running through my second battery of the delay, and once it drain's, I'll be out of juice.)


2004-06-09 17:13:23
Chicago weather is nice.
Chicago is slightly overcast, but there is no storm. I don't suppose the crew cares that I can look out my window to verify this.

It's so nice, I'm just about to go out for a run. :)

2004-06-09 21:53:34
It was not the weather in Chicago
Apparently, the agitation made its way to the cockpit. In his next announcement after my fellow passengers showed radar maps to the crew, the captain clarified that the problem was not the weather in Chicago, but the weather on the approaches in Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. After losing the approaches, they couldn't keep all the runways open to receive traffic, and it stacked up quickly. I made it to my destination eventually, though it took five and a half hours on the plane to make it from Atlanta to Chicago. For that kind of flight time, I could almost get to Europe!
2004-06-10 02:51:01
It was not the weather in Chicago
Question is, would the majority of passengers have accepted that explanation had it first been offered?
Most wouldn't have understood why weather 2 states away can cause problems for aircraft flying into an airport and would have dismissed it as just another attempt to keep them quiet...

Flightcrew would have had to go through the cabin giving a lecture in airtraffic control and showing the lay of the airways (IFR navigation charts are almost incomprehensible to the uninitiated as they show no landscape features except major lakes and seas and sometimes international boundaries).

2004-06-10 03:02:37
It was not the weather in Chicago
for interested parties, here are the current airport charts for O'Hare.

area charts are available here: http://map.aeroplanner.com/mapping/chart/chart.cfm?A=7 (IFR charts for paying members only, spot areas of VFR charts are available for everyone free of charge).

2004-06-10 05:18:43
One thing I know...
Never, ever expect a plane to depart/arrive on time to or from Chicago. Never. Always bring charged, multiple batteries if you have to go through Chicago. They will close/delay for everything and anything: fog, rain, snow... those big white fluffy things in the sky...