You Can Get Off at the Terminal

Ruminations From the Ramp You Can Get Off at the Terminal By Tony Vasko May 2000 It’s kind of amusing to read of the battles for "Passenger’s Rights" and how, in the midst of a howling snowstorm, people expect that when they arrive on a...


We quickly pulled the heaters, tarpaulins and stands. The rep walked across the ramp and looked up at the open cabin door. It was crowded with passengers who wanted to get off and who were gesticulating furiously. They were wild eyed for it was ferociously cold. They screamed down to him. "We want to get off! We will not fly on this cruel airline. Get us off. We want off." The stewardesses (this was the fifties) looked frightened and couldn't control them.

The airline's rep stood below and was adamant. He called up to the frenzied passengers. "Close the door. You can't get off here. The plane will take you back to the terminal. You can get off when it gets back to the terminal. They screamed some more and he told them that the airplane would taxi back to the terminal and let them off."

Somewhat mollified, the rebellious passengers responded and the frightened stewardess closed the door. We signaled to the cockpit. The crew up front was warm and toasty of course. The #3 engine came to life first because the inboards have the hydraulic pumps needed for the brakes. The blades spun on #4, one of the iced plug engines. Yes, the Herman Nelsons had done their job. #1 spun and fired and then #2. With all four going, we waved him off the blocks for his short trip back to the terminal.

The aircraft taxied out to the end of the little taxiway that led to and from our ramp to a runway. The DC-4 paused at the edge of the runway, which it had to cross. Presumably they were calling for clearance from the tower to cross. The engines roared and plane moved out onto the runway but instead of proceeding directly across toward the beckoning terminal, it made a sharp left turn onto the runway. The engines bellowed and, without benefit of a mag check, it rolled down the remaining mile and a half of runway and took off for SJU. It was then I remembered seeing the maintenance rep pull the landing gear ground locks and, after all, he hadn’t said what terminal they could get off at.

I have sometimes speculated at the scene inside N-416 as, instead of taxiing to the terminal, it trundled faster and faster down the runway and lifted off. I always hoped the cabin heater fired up promptly. The stewardesses must have had an interesting trip.

Such were the joys of economy air travel in the 1950s.

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