Sunday, March 23, 2008

DFW Is Closed For Business??

So we were on day two of a three day trip. Last night was only one leg from DFW to Newark. Easy enough. Still no cookies though.....we had to stay at the Newark Airport Hotel again.

When we left Texas the previous night, all the weather forecasts were calling for a couple of severe thunderstorm days in Dallas for the following two days
. As luck would have it, our day would have us returning from Newark to DFW and then on to Nashville. But after looking at the north Texas radar returns, we both had serious doubts as to whether we would make it to DFW this day. Typically our company does a lot of preemptive canceling of flights whenever severe weather is forecast for a hub. They didn't do that today. Bad decision!

We departed on time with 140 passengers and waited in the usual lineup for takeoff. Number 20 or so.

Looking across the field we spotted the New Jersey Devils Boeing 727 parked near a hangar.

About an hour and a half after takeoff we received an urgent message on our onboard printer from our dispatcher in Ft Worth. "We need you to land NOW in Nashville....DFW is closed due to severe thunderstorms."

So I called him on the radio to advise that we were 5000 lbs overweight for a landing in Nashville and that I'd prefer to go to Memphis. He agreed. So we call
ed the cabin crew to let them know and then I made a PA to the passengers to give them the bad news. I thought I heard some groaning from the cabin!

Diversions don't usually go very well and today was no exception. Our agents in Memphis didn't want to let anyone off the plane. They already had another MD-80 on another gate and two more diverts were inbound. But I wasn't about to make 140 people sit on the plane for who knew how long. That kind of stuff makes for bad headlines. So I had to go over their heads and called the higher ups and soon our passengers were in the terminal enjoying the Memphis airport instead of the back of the MD-80.

Over the next four hours I had numerous phone calls with our dispatcher. The storms at DFW just kept coming in waves. It seems that one of the control towers at DFW had to be evacuated when they spotted a funnel cloud headed their way. Fortunately it never touched down but the delays were growing and growing. American Airlines ended up canceling over 1100 flights this day. What a mess!

We finally got a release from ATC after about five hours in Memphis. We got caught up in a long line of FedEx departures but that was OK. More photos for me!

We didn't lose too many passengers...most all of them got back on board. The hour long flight to DFW ended up taking almost two hours with all the deviations and speed reductions. It was choppy too....we ran out of barfbags!

The airport terminal was a giant mess. It looked like a huge campground. There were cots everywhere. Most all of the airport hotels were full and hundreds of passengers were forced to spend the night in the airport.

We returned the next morning to complete our trip. It was only a turnaround from DFW to Dayton and back. DFW's weather had improved greatly but now Dayton was getting it. We flew an ILS down to minimums in heavy rain. It all worked out nicely and before long I was enjoying a couple of cookies on the way back home.

The arrival back to DFW gave us a nice view of downtown Dallas with Love Field in view.

The Trinity River is normally just a trickle but today you can see it was way over it's banks. Almost 5 inches of rain in one day will do that every time.

It's springtime in Texas.

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple


mlesser said...

As always, a good read! The bad storms sounds like Sydney weather for the past 3 months.

Its good to hear you let the passengers out. I have been stuck on a diverted 747 for over 3 hours in Melbourne and it was not the best.

Cheers, Mike

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Mike,

How goes your flying? And your trip to the Outback?


mlesser said...

Trip to the outback in a few weeks. Hopefully have a job lined up, got a few friends helping me out luckily. Im just trying to get my last airline transport licence theory exam out of the way so im done and done with everything.

Flying is going well, havent really done a lot recently except fly friends around if they are paying haha.

Hope your knee is going ok and being back on the line isnt too bad.


Tom said...

I read today that AA canceled about 200 flights at DFW and ORD - MD80's for safety inspections? Were you affected by this today?

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Tom,

Yes I was affected. My entire week of flying has been canceled due to the groundings. I'll probably be doing a post about it later this week.