This blog is guest written by my father, who was a Naval aviator for twenty years and got me started on my passion for aviation. During a recent chat he shared this story with me and I asked him to write it up as it is a piece of airline history. Here is his story on a trip to New York’s JFK airport:
The year was 1977. I was a young Lieutenant in the United States Navy, stationed at Whidbey Island in Washington. One of the requirements of my job was to represent the EA-6B Model Manager at a NATOPS review conference held at Bethpage, NY. Accompanying me was the other half of the NATOPS Model Manager team, Gary.
We departed out of Seattle, WA for an uneventful trip to New York on an American Airlines DC-10. The airline had a new promotional program called “the bottomless wine glass”. The bottomless wine glass meant there was an unlimited amount of free wine available for the duration of the trip. On the trip to New York we were very responsible drinkers. Our return trip was to be a horse of another color.
The return trip was also on an American Airlines DC-10, however, during this portion of our trip we took full advantage of their bottomless wine glass program. We didn’t have to drive when we arrived back home, so why not? We were seated in the center section, second row back from the bulkhead close to the movie screen. We were also on the aisle, hence easy access to the passing flight attendant.
The flight was seemingly uneventful with us consuming copious amounts of wine until the start of the in-flight movie. Neither of us opted for a headset as that would have cost a few dollars and we were too busy talking about solving “the world problems” anyway.
The movie started and Gary said that he had recently seen it and from that point on gave a running dialog on the movie since I hadn’t seen it. I’m sure all those around us were totally put out, but, no one said a thing to us.
We continued to drink all the way back to Seattle. In those days there was no such thing as being too intoxicated on a plane; or so it seemed. After landing, I quickly exited the plane thinking Gary was right behind me. I waited at the top of the ramp for what seemed an eternity. Finally, I saw Gary being helped by two flight attendants up the ramp. They brought him over to me a relayed the following events.
Upon exiting the aircraft Gary waited at the aircraft exit door for me to deplane. After everyone had departed the aircraft they closed the door and proceeded to coach Gary up the ramp toward the terminal. Gary then “broke’ free and went back to the aircraft door and started banging on the door and calling out for me. He emphatically told the attendants I was still inside. He was so adamant about me still being onboard they opened the aircraft door and escorted him inside to a totally dark cabin. Still insistent and sounding threatening, Gary made them do a walk through the plane with him.
Flashlights in hand they scoured the entire aircraft. Satisfied I was no longer onboard he quietly deplaned and came up to the terminal where he found me.
Looking back on the inconsideration we showed those around us, I am ashamed. I am not particularly proud of that story but it did happen in an era were heavy drinking was acceptable and Viet Nam was a recent memory so people were more tolerant of military personnel. My how things have changed since then, probably for the better.