The “Fixed” Plane

March 23, 2018

in Airplane Stories

So, last minute family trip – DCA to MSP on Delta. For those who don’t know, Washington National (DCA) isn’t exactly the largest airport, and that includes the runway.

They started boarding, then stopped and deplaned the few people who had got on. The pilot came out, borrowed the gate agent’s PA and informed us that one of the plane’s “brake tachometers” had failed on landing at National. Apparently this means that the wheels aren’t properly synced, and basically means that the plane only had three working wheel brakes instead of four. Our pilot was not comfortable taking off on a short runway with only three brakes – and neither were we given there have been incidents of planes ending up in the Potomac River!

Not wishing to be headline news, we were quite glad to hang around the airport while they flew a part up from Atlanta, but I was a tiny bit concerned that they were fixing the plane rather than substituting, having overheard that the “pilot wants to take it out of service.”

Finally, we get on. I notice as we take off that the pilot is taking off as slowly as you can at National (this is still pretty fast, but it wasn’t the normal turn and gun). But hey, we were airborne, and the plane was fixed.

Right.

So, we touch down at MSP and the second the brakes apply the plane yaws substantially on the runway. My husband said, “Was that a crosswind?”

I, in the window seat, looking at the wing, “Nope. That was the brakes.” (It had definitely happened after touchdown and cross winds generally cause a visible flexing of the wing).

We didn’t get the normal “This is your Captain, welcome to Minneapolis, the local time is…” speech, and as we deplaned he was in the jetway trying his best not to go off on a completely innocent maintenance guy. “Same thing again. Fifteen degrees of yaw.”

So, yeah. Our plane was very definitely “fixed.”

After that I was, of course, hoping for a very smooth return flight.

Nope.

Our return flight was, in fact, the exact opposite of “smooth.” It was so far away from smooth that I ended up needing the euphemistically-marked “Feel better” bag, an amenity I haven’t needed that often…

– Jennifer

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