Friday, November 2, 2012

Albatross Survives a Soaking But Not Neighborhood with Air Crash in its Past

Tom visits the airplane on Tuesday.
Retired pilot Tom Casey has written several books, but I doubt he's imagined a story line in which a graying airline captain rescues a half-century old flying boat from an Arizona bone yard, spends years lovingly restoring it to flying condition and then brings it home - right in the flight path of the storm of the century. 
But those are the facts of Casey's Grumman Albatross and Hurricane Sandy. He flew his newly airworthy airplane back to the Nutmeg State just three months ago.  But I didn't introduce you to the plane and the pilot in my last blog post, to leave you in suspense about how she fared. Word from Tom was quick and to the point. 

"All is well. The Albatross survived the searing winds without incident," Tom told me in an email.

Securing the nose gear on Saturday afternoon.
In fact, no damage was reported anywhere at Danbury Municipal Airport. Credit the airport’s operations director, Mike Safranek and the tenants who worked together to secure all the planes including Tom’s Albatross.

The same could not be said of Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, or Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In a flyover of the state on Tuesday, the Connecticut National Guard photographed these pathetic scenes. 

White Plains Westchester County Airport, by contrast was high and dry throughout the storm. The airport’s Steve Ferguson told me all of the general aviation airplanes were in good shape with only one Piper slightly damaged by the wind. Westchester has general, business and commercial aviation and it may have been the first airport in the region to resume scheduled flights. On Wednesday, Steve tells me, United and USAirways were flying but travelers, stuck in homes without power, obviously didn’t get the word. The airport was a ghost town. Planes were ready to fly, but where were the passengers?

Would that the news at the other airports in the region was as good. With plenty of warning and highly paid (we hope) meteorologists to guide them, airlines moved their planes out of John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia but the fixed equipment; pavement, localizers, jetways were damaged by winds and weather. Few are the airlines that are not affected when airports in one of the busiest hubs in the world close down for a couple of days.

As the weekend begins, air travelers, (including me) will be boarding planes with some semblance of normalcy and I for one, hope it will be with a new appreciation for the oft-maligned airlines.

Among a sizable collection of poignant images of Sandy devastation are those of the residents of Belle Harbor in Rockaway Queens, a peninsula that was battered hard by the storm. 

Flight 587 taxing prior to takeoff. Photo courtesy
When NBC news anchor Matt Lauer arrived to cover the aftermath on Tuesday he said he was struck with deja vu. This was the same neighborhood, the same city block in fact where American Airlines flight 587 crashed nearly 11 years ago, killing all 260 aboard the flight from New York to the Dominican Republic and five people on the ground. A massive fire destroyed homes then. A massive fire destroyed a dozen homes in Hurricane Sandy. Downed trees and flooding kept firefighters from being able to battle the blaze.

"We've been through a lot with 9-11 and planes crashing," one resident told Lauer. "We all pull together." 

Pulling together, then is the common thread. Sometimes, as in Tom Casey's case it works with tremendous results. Sometimes, it can only happen after the damage is done. 

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