Forty years ago I worked for a small but high-tech software company in Princeton, NJ. We were a customer of DEC in Maynard, MA, where I would end up just a few years later. In the meantime business often took my boss and me on day trips to Maynard, and the Newark/Boston Eastern Air Shuttle was just the ticket. (Forgive me.) It was our habit to take the very first flight out. It left at something like 6AM leaving us ample time to rent a car, find our favorite diner and then drive to DEC headquarters.
One morning, on our regular DC-9 flight, the captain got on the horn and announced that, with the cooperation of the ATC folks, we would be setting a record for the Newark to Boston run. We did. Takeoff to touchdown was something like twenty-seven minutes. (It usually takes around forty-five.)
And that’s the end of that story …
… But it’s the beginning of the next one.
A few months later we were still riding the shuttle once or twice a week. One day we set out from Newark, bound for Boston as usual. Takeoff was normal. The flight was normal though the eastern seaboard was completely covered by a deck of clouds.
As we approached Boston the captain announced that the airport was below minimums, and that our alternate was … you guessed it … Newark. Back we went. We sat on the ramp for about an hour till the captain announced that the Boston weather was improving, and that we would finally be doing the intended flight. So we had done an hour out and an hour back, a complete waste of time. Then we topped the tanks off just to be safe.
Off we went, but the same thing happened. Logan below minimums. An hour out and then an hour back to Newark. Wait some more, this time for about two hours. (Are you doing a running total of all these hours?)
As we were taxiing out for our third attempt, something went wrong mechanically, we weren’t told what. Back to the ramp. The mechanics scratched their heads for a while and then fixed the problem, taking maybe an hour to do it. Off we went yet again …
… Except that we had to hold near Hartford, and we burned up most of our non-reserve fuel, necessitating a pit stop at Hartford. Half an hour to get up there, and then ninety minutes in the hold. Everybody in the world must have gone into Hartford because it was another two hours before our tanks were filled. (Or maybe the crew had to pool their credit cards to buy the stuff.)
By then Logan had shut down completely so we flew to (surprise!) Newark. After holding somewhere for a while, we got into Newark and then waited on the ground till Logan reopened. Hartford to Newark to the takeoff for Boston took probably another ninety minutes.
This time we had a normal forty-five minute leg with a normal (IFR) approach. We all cheered.
Add it all up:
Two hours for the first round trip.
Two hours for the second round trip.
An hour to chase the gremlins out of the aircraft.
Two hours to Hartford.
Two hours in Hartford.
An hour returning from Hartford to Newark.
A half hour on the ground at Newark
Forty-five minutes Newark to Logan.
I get eleven hours and fifteen minutes. I must be forgetting some things because in reality it was a fourteen hour day on that aircraft.
So we set a record again, this time for the slowest Newark-to-Boston run.