Before every flight, one of the Pilots climbs down to the tarmac and inspects the airplane. They walk around, shine a flash light and poke their heads in spots.
I always thought this was rather pointless. Sure, it makes sense on a tiny aircraft where the main altimeter is your ear drums, but why do it on an airliner? Are they checking to see if they engines are there? I think there's an instrument for that. If there's anything wrong won't they see it in the cockpit? They've got more gauges and dials in there than a rotary phone factory.
And if the problem doesn't show up on their instruments, is a guy with epilets on his shirt and a tie going to see it while walking around the aircraft?
What I though was an outdated FAA inspection procedure, or just good, old-fashioned tradition caused a 2.5 hour delay today.
I was on Alaska flight 382 from SEA to Orange County today. As we were getting settled, the pilot announced that the co-pilot found something during the walk around. There was a big dent in the horizontal stabilizer (the small wing at the back of the plane). And that dent could mess with the planes aerodynamics.
It was probably caused by a bird strike or foreign object on the runway when they landed. Regardless of the cause, before plane number N562AS could take off, the mechanics had to measure the dent.
A few minutes later the pilot announced they were working on it. I was in row 2 and got to hear some of the discussion. Apparently, the mechanics were using a magic marker in the process. I'm not sure why, but then again, I barely know what a horizontal stabilizer is so I'll take their word for it. I nodded off.
I woke up in my seat two hours later as they made another announcement about the delay. They were still working on it. Apparently the dent was big enough that they actually had to fix it. Don't you hate it when that happens your two year old aircraft? In the US fleet that's practically brand new.
They allowed people to get off to stretch and get food. I tried to go back to sleep. Unfortunately so many people got off they asked us all to get off, so it would be easier to check everyone back in when we reboarded. So it was official: nap time was over.
We deplaned, and then reboarded a half hour later. The rest of the flight was without adventure, and we reached SNA 157 minutes late.
Which is fine. Because incredibly forgettable flights are what most of us are looking for.