Embarrassed by Murphy's Law
submitted by Ralph Quick
"If anything can go wrong it will ". This is Murphy's Law which originated in aviation. Pilots fly their whole career, making sure they look ahead for what can go wrong and making sure it does not happen. Results of having an incident going unforeseen can lead to an accident, aircraft damage, or at the very least embarrassment. My encounter with Murphy's Law was caused by distraction and ended with embarrassment.
My distraction was provided by an Omega Navigation System (forerunner of modern GPS) that had been installed in my CP Air Boeing 737. It only appeared on this one flight, never to be seen again on any other flights. We left Vancouver for Edmonton on an 'all stops' to Montreal. At cruising altitude, we tried to set up the system by putting in waypoints to see how it worked. As we had had no instruction, it did not, no matter what we did.
On arrival at YEG there were no gates available, so we parked on the far side of the tarmac and were serviced by a PTV (Passenger Transfer Vehicle). Standard procedure was for the front door to be opened as the PTV arrived, deplane the passengers, then extend the "airstairs" with the door open after PTV departed. Airstairs would be retracted when the PTV arrived back to load the passengers for departure, and we would then receive our late load.
While we sat there, the F/O and I became totally absorbed in the Nav system with our heads down not looking outside, trying to figure it out. We came back to reality when the late load arrived on the radio. I looked up and door and airstair lights were out, a mechanic walked up and connected to us. I said, "ready to start" and he cleared us to start engines.
Our taxi time to end of runway for takeoff was about 1 1/2 minutes. We were about 20 seconds to takeoff and just going to change to tower frequency when I hear a plaintive voice on the radio,
“Empress — PTV 1, don't you want your passengers?" Murphy had struck.
Much embarrassed, I did a quick 1 1/2-minute taxi back to the ramp, loaded the passengers, and away we went.
My luck was that it was not the era of social media. I only had to endure seeing a cartoon on the bulletin board at Edmonton (YEG) for about a month, at which time it was given to me. It was great, showing a PTV on the highway to Winnipeg chasing an aircraft disappearing to the east with the caption "don't you want your passengers? ". Unfortunately, I can't share it with you as it went missing after our last move.
What caught me was when I looked up, the door and airstair lights were out indicating we had been loaded. Only problem was I had forgotten that the airstairs were unserviceable and because of that the door was closed. Too many heads in the cockpit and no one else noticed that no passengers had been loaded. But nonetheless the buck stops in the left seat and I wore the horns.
Just to add to this story the PTV unloaded over 50 passengers, including the entire New York Rangers hockey team. If we had gone another minute, we would have been airborne and had to return then take a delay topping up the fuel delaying the team for their game that night.
I have been retired 27 years so it's easy to share this story. Any other pilots out there willing to share their encounter with Murphy's Law?