Life on the road can be entertaining at times. When you fly an airline like Delta, which I’ve found to be extremely well-run and operationally sound, it’s notable when things go wrong. Flight 110, from ATL to LAX on September 7, started out well enough. I was number 9 for the upgrade with 18 empty seats up front on this 767-300 domestic bird. I cleared into 1C. Bulkheads aren’t ideal, but no one is reclining into my lap here. Life was good, and for the record, it still is as I wing my way to LAX.
Things got a little weird when my 8:10AM flight suddenly became an 8:05AM flight while I was sitting in the Sky Club. No worries, I had plenty of time, but did make my way to the gate a little earlier. I arrived just in time to hear the announcement that boarding was delayed while the aircraft was cleaned. Delayed boarding vs. earlier departure? Things that make you go hmmm. Eventually, we boarded, and I took my seat. Boarding was progressing nicely, and I was certain we would make our (original) departure. Things were getting buttoned up, and the first officer came on the P/A to welcome everyone, pausing in mid announcement. He came back to say that he’d stopped to let the ground know that they should not remove the ground power, then continued with his welcome. And then the airplane went dark.
It seems we were without an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), which explains the original good intent of buttoning up the airplane 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Having a little airline time in my book, there’s nothing unusual about that. You use ground power until the engines are started, which takes about 5 minutes on a good day. End of story. Except for today. From my vantage point of 1C, I could hear a good bit of the chatter between our pilots, operations, and the ground crew. Our pilots deserve a medal for keeping their cool, because I would probably have been chewing someone’s hind quarters after about 2 minutes.
To make a long story longer, we sat at the gate, unpowered for about 20 minutes until the ramp crew was able to get the ground power functioning again. This resulted in a reboot of not only the inflight entertainment, but the cockpit instrumentation and navigational systems as well. Once we got an engine started, we had to sit a little longer for the navigation systems to reset themselves. No sweat….until the airplane went dark again. You guessed it….another reboot of everything. Somehow, we managed to block out with only a 37 minute delay from our original 8:10am departure.
The cabin crew is stellar, and the pilots did a good job of keeping everyone informed while everything got worked out. Boo to whomever dropped the ball on getting the ramp crew informed that the airplane was without a functional APU. Really not a big deal in the scheme of things, but certainly a reminder of just how many things have to happen behind the scenes to get to this -
-MJ, September 7, 2014