The Popsicle Eating Pilot

December 24, 2009

in Attendant & Pilot Stories

This flight wasn’t really hellish, just funny.

When I was in college in Ohio in the ’80’s, I would fly home to Connecticut for Christmas via La Guardia to our local small airport. The now-defunct airline that I took from LGA to Connecticut was called Pilgrim Airlines, and they flew a fleet of small turboprops; Twin Otters and ATRs and the like.

On one trip, the tired old Twin Otter was full, mostly with drunk twentysomethings on their way home for the holidays. The cockpit actually had a curtain rather than a door, and it was open as I sat down. The pilot was eating a popsicle as he and the FO went through their preflight. He then ate what remained of the popsicle, tossed the stick on the floor and started the engines. The flight was loud and the drunks were singing and generally being drunks.

I picked up an old Reader’s Digest that happened to be in the seat pocket and began reading a “Drama in Real Life” story. It was about a plane crash. Of a DeHavilland Twin Otter. Flown by Pilgrim Airlines! In the story, the plane apparently iced up and made a crash landing, after which it caught on fire. Wonderful!

Fortunately, we made it to our destination, Groton-New London airport, fine. The airport is tiny, and you deplane via airstairs. As I was leaving the plane, I saw the flight attendant, pilot and FO unloading the bags from the plane and loading them onto a cart, which would then be wheeled into the terminal so passengers could get their bags. I saw my black duffel bag on the cart and asked the pilot if I could just take it rather than wait for the cart to be wheeled into the terminal, to which he replied “Go ahead, I don’t care. I hate this job.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim December 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

Well, at least he was honest. LOL

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Ron - St. Louis January 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I know this had to be a true story because I remember this airline when I flew to Groton from Submarine School. The plane we took from LGA to Groton was Pilgram Airways and it was by far is the worse condition of any part 121 carrier I ever traveled on. I remember the pilot and co-pilot (with the curtain open) arguing about some duty to be performed. They clearly were not getting along and I have to admit I don't miss Pilgram, Buiness News, and several other flight by night outfits that ran up and down the North East in the 80's.

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tnp June 25, 2015 at 7:26 pm

I agree w/Ron of St. Louis. I used to travel frequently on Pilgrim airlines and I remember some of the flights I took were terrifying. Pilots were disorganized, the cabins was cramped and smelly, no way you could understand what was coming over the PA system. This was the original down-n-dirty federally certified air transport insult to the traveling public. I went once from Groton to LGA, it must have been at 500 ft., I could see the fishing boats and the crew waving, you get to watch the co-pilot eat lunch. I'm glad these guys are gone, we've got real airlines now, where this sort of thing doesn't happen.
Tom P.

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Bill November 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

I used to work for Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil Qc back in 1975 and had to fly to Hartford Ct a few times and each and all were with Pilgrim – I had no problems with them – thought they were a great little airline – loved those Twin Otters – the only problem was missing a return flight to Montreal because of the damned traffic on the way to the airport –

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George Blahun January 7, 2016 at 10:27 am

Early 70s, I was flying from Boston to Groton, CT via Pilgrim Airlines in a two engine STOL aircraft. I think it was a DHC6. Windy, heavy rain and eventually lightning. Four passengers, two Navy MPs with a prisoner in hand cuffs and me. The pilot walked onto the plane with a full length trench coat, drenched with water running off his bald head and dripping from his Fu Manchu facial hair. It really was surreal. The plane took off and since we were all sitting up front with the cabin door open we could hear all the unsettling communication. The plane was dropping like a roller coaster and nearly rolling 90°. Groton indicated the airport was closed, but the pilot said he had low fuel, Logan was now closed and nowhere else to go. First time I was really scared on a plane. When the pilot said we were coming in to Groton, I kept looking out the window, but saw nothing until we touched down. My parents were waiting to pick me up and they said they almost left because they were told the airport was closed to all incoming and outgoing flights.

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Papa February 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

I remember the Groton to New Haven (if the pilot remembered, or cared) to LaGuardia flight in the early 80's. If it wasn't for clear days and I-95, who knows how many would have been lost. On more than a few occasions, the clouds would clear away, and we would be crossing the Hudson heading for parts unknown, destined to run out of fuel and end in a flaming hunk of junk.

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