Idle Thoughts

Airport Encounter

Killing time at LAX .....

As American Airlines wouldn’t let me into their Lounge, I popped into one of the bars, where I was asked for my ID to check whether I was old enough to buy a beer, I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or suggest an optician, but a guy behind me joked "your too old to drink!" Mind you, the biggest shock was the price - $10.50!! I then bumped into Dick, a Colorado IT man who I had briefly met with his wife at Crusoe’s Retreat in Fiji – small world, his wife seemed to have gone home ahead of him after their subsequent trip to New Zealand. Dick, who was actually on his circuitous way back from three months with the research guys in Antarctica, was having a great time: he had been bumped off a flight in Honolulu, given a luxury room in The Marriott in Waikiki with a $400 flight voucher, had spent the day on the beach with a pretty young thing who he knew from Antarctica who he had coincidentally bumped into as she was similarly bumped off the same flight – small world again, and was now hobbling back to Colorado: probable menisceal tear from falling over a tent-peg on the ice in white-out!

We chatted for a while, and then for a further while as the flight was delayed. He was fascinating about Antarctica and the conditions encountered in that out-of-this-world environment, which lead to discussion of the book he was reading – ‘Verdict on Erebus’ by Peter Mahon. This details the circumstances surrounding the flight of ZK-NZP into Mount Erebus in November 1979, when 257 people died on the DC10 during a sight-seeing flight to McMurdo Sound. Apparently, it was a nail-biting tale of politics, intrigue and duplicity, that involved unusual meteorological conditions akin to those when Dick failed to see the tent-peg. I expressed my interest in aircraft accident investigation and we discussed some of the issues.

Having eventually boarded and sat in our respective seats, just as we were taxiing Dick suddenly appeared at my elbow, thrust the book into my hands, stated that he had finished it and disappeared back off down the aircraft. My next door neighbour jocularly commented that “I didn’t realize we had been delayed for that long!” I don’t think he was entirely happy when I explained the subject matter of the book, there I was, heading for the Rockies reading a book about an aircraft that flew into a mountain!
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