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J is for Justified

Sometimes, there’s a good reason to break the rules.

Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the freight company with which I was employed was one of the first airlines permitted to return to the air. We carried canceled checks for the Federal Reserve, and were subsequently an important part of keeping the economy running. In addition to canceled checks, we were entrusted to transport other time sensitive objects, such as radioactive medications and donated blood.

Late in the evening on September 12, 2001, I was part of a crew which delivered a jet full – and I mean completely full – of boxes of blood for the Red Cross to the New York, NY area.


1976 Learjet 35A, S/N 073 configured for freight operations

A Learjet configured for cargo operations is essentially gutted of all seats, with the exception of the two in the cockpit, and a small bench seat opposite the entry door. There is a net that spans the interior of the fuselage, separating the cargo from the seating area, and keeping the door clear as an emergency exit.

When we picked up the blood destined for New York, there were too many to fit them all in the cargo area. The thought of leaving those few boxes behind was unacceptable, as the schedule had been thrown into such chaos that we had no idea whether another flight would be dispatched to take them.  So, we agreed to break the rules.

We instructed the ground crew loading the plane to pile the extra boxes on the floor, the bench seat, and up to the ceiling, before securing the door behind us, sealing us in.  Had anything gone wrong and we needed to exit the aircraft quickly, we would have been in serious trouble.  However, in this one instance, we felt that the ends justified the means.

I cannot say for sure that we made a difference that night with our small act of rebellion, but I believe in my heart that we did. And, in my opinion, that’s really all that matters.

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