It’s much better safe than sorry

When you take your driver’s licence test, one of the tasks you are examined on is whether or not you do a walk around your vehicle to ensure it’s in safe condition.
You are checking to see that the lights are there, the tires have air, the windows are not broken, and there are no oil or liquid patches under the vehicle (though I doubt most of us do that on a regular basis).
Pilots do the same, but I hadn’t thought about how important that walk around a plane is until the last two sets of flights I’ve flown on.
I was sitting at Gate A1b at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Sunday as I started writing this column. For the second-consecutive trip, the pilots who fly for Northwest found a problem on their walk around the aircraft.
Last trip, the walk-around at International Falls found something wrong with the landing gear. This time, the walk-around discovered hydraulic fluid under the front of the plane.
Looking up under the nose wheel, the two pilots and ground crew felt the amount of oil required further attention.
A repair crew was brought in and they hoped to have me flying in time to make the evening connection to the Falls. But they were unable to fix the aircraft in the short time and the last I saw of it, the jet was being towed away.
Jim Brow and I were put aboard a much later flight that got us into Minneapolis that night. During the flight, the pilot constantly was cautioning the passengers to remain in their seats with their seatbelts on.
At one point, about 100 miles from Minneapolis, his anxious voice ordered everyone back to their seats, and to put their tables up and their seats in an upright manner.
We were not landing, but were circling around an anvil cloud that rose thousands of feet above us. Those in the cabin were not aware of any storms in the area as we flew over Wisconsin.
Luckily, our plane didn’t encounter any rough spots.
Upon landing, we were put aboard a shuttle to a hotel, where we met other passengers who had been stranded at Minneapolis because of severe weather problems.
By Monday morning as we were heading back to the airport, many more passengers who had been inconvenienced by the weather joined us on the shuttle.
All the Minneapolis TV channels were showing the aftermath of the tornadoes which had ripped apart parts of southern Minnesota and Iowa. Some of those people on the shuttle had been in the air late Sunday evening and had been turned back by the severe weather.
Fortunately, we have witnessed fewer airline accidents in North America. It is a credit to the pilots and the companies who fly those hundreds of millions of passengers each year.
Picking up on that leak in the airplane is just a simple example of the care they provide.
Sometimes is really pays to arrive late.

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