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L is for Late

See what I did there? Because “L” was supposed to be posted yesterday? Uh, yeah, anyway…


Don’t be late!

During freight operations, timing is everything. Everyone – couriers, loaders, pilots, dispatch, even maintenance – works together to complete our deliveries within five minutes of the scheduled arrival time because, in many instances, being late can cost our clients money.

Some delays are unavoidable, such as weather, traffic, headwinds, and unexpected mechanical issues, and we would do our best to work out a viable solution. On one such occasion, I was lucky enough to propose a solution that not only worked, it allowed me to end my work night on time instead of two hours later.

Every so often, due to additional freight volume destined for St. Paul, MN, my captain and I would have to fly that overflow directly out of Columbus, OH, instead of heading home to Chicago, as was our normal route. We were never pleased to have to tack on the additional two hours to our already long twelve hour night, and, in most cases, were unconvinced of the necessity.

On one such night, while we were grudgingly on our way to St. Paul, two other jets were enroute to Chicago. One would continue on to end their shift in St. Paul, and the other would head west to Kansas City. On this night, though, the Learjet destined for Kansas City had mechanical issues which would lead to it being grounded in Chicago and unable to deliver its plane stuffed with freight to its home base.

While dispatch and the captain of the Kansas City plane were discussing options on the company frequency, I had an idea. I keyed the mic without even consulting my captain – bad form, I know, but I couldn’t stop myself – and said, “What if we go direct to Chicago and swap planes? We would be home with a broken plane which could get fixed during the day, Kansas City could take their cargo in our aircraft, and I’m positive we can fit our freight in the St. Paul plane. What do you say?”

Dispatch only hesitated for a moment, before responding with a crisp, “Do it.”

With a whoop of joy, I asked ATC to change our destination to Midway and received a clearance to fly directly there.

Once safely on the ground in Chicago, all the pilots worked diligently with the ground crew to swiftly unload all three jets, sort the cargo according to its final destination, and then reload the two aircraft heading for Kansas City and St. Paul. I was lucky that everything did, in fact, fit in the St. Paul jet, and even luckier that we were able to scramble fast enough to send them both on their way on time.

In all honesty, however, all I really wanted was to not be late for my bedtime.

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