11 Days In Jamaica – Departure

Air Jamaica flight arriving to Montego Bay Donald Sangster Airport. (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations


Wednesday June 13, 2007

The Antelope Valley Jazz Ensemble  is on its way back to Jamaica once again. Back on Air J (Air Jamaica) for this trip. That means a non-stop direct to Montego Bay. Finally, I’m at the airport. Thought I’d never get here. 40 minutes late leaving from my last appointment. 50 minutes late getting to the airport. (While we were waiting at the gate, we noticed that Delta Air Lines has a flight #1492 to Columbus.) Now we’re half an hour late leaving the gate. The pilot said it was because of the amount of luggage on board. Never heard that one before, but I did recall seeing one family with 14 pieces of luggage at the ticket counter, and when we landed I saw one single person with 10 boxes.

Justin and I had an empty seat between us…or so we thought. One of the stewardesses went row to row looking for two passengers who had checked in but not yet boarded. A few minutes later, a plus-sized woman got on and sat down, you guessed it, next to us. She was wearing two big, gaudy earrings that looked like small gongs. She also had on a necklace with long, wooden beads.

We pushed back from the gate, started up those General Electric CFM56 engines, lowered flaps, and headed down the taxiway. A few yards away from the end of the taxiway the pilot informs us that we had to turn back to the gate because one of the engines had “ingested something.” Not words you want to hear when you’re on a plane. That usually means a damaged or destroyed multi-million dollar engine. So back to the gate we go. I found out later that the engine had sucked in some sort of plastic object.

By now it’s after 11pm. I had been up since 5am so it was very easy to sleep while the mechanics tended to the engine. Little over an hour later I am awakened by a strange sound: Clink. Clink-clink. Clink…..Clink. Remember our plus-sized seat mate? Every time she moved her head her gong earrings hit her necklace. Very annoying because after sitting at the gate for nearly two hours the passengers started talking to each other. Including her. Which meant she was moving her head often. During the delay, some passengers were walking back to the galley bringing back water for their seat mates.

We were finally cleared by the maintenance supervisor and left the gate once again. We taxied out to the end of the runway. Since almost all the other air traffic had ceased by this hour we didn’t have to hold for clearance from the tower. The pilot ran up the GEs to full power. Our Airbus A320 eased forward. Picking up speed now, slowly at first, but after the brakes were fully released it felt like the afterburners kicked in. We barreled down the runway and into the air. My favorite part is just after rotation: The wheels clear the runway and for an instant it feels like we’re in limbo. Then it is if the air catches us up like a child jumping into his loving father’s outstretched arms.

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