(January 2012) After I had introduced myself to Eric, the number one flight attendant for our Miami turnaround from JFK, he reluctantly conveyed some of the more annoying events from the same trip a day earlier. I told Eric that the copilot and I were commuters and that our primary purpose was to end the day safely and on time. No drama would be allowed. Then I broke my own rule.
First on the drama list was an overbooking issue. A friendly discussion with the gate agent as she escorted me down the jet bridge indicated that her math and the reservation computer’s math didn’t agree. Our flight was overbooked by more than her calculations had determined. I discovered later that part of the problem was the fact that maintenance had declared two seats inoperative because of electrical issues. The other problem would manifest itself in the form of six soon-to-be-upset passengers. More on that later.
I walked down the jet bridge stairs and onto the ramp. It was the copilot’s leg to Miami and I had offered to conduct the walk-around inspection. Captains should not perform walk-arounds because stuff just seems to happen. True to form, I discovered an oil leak underneath the right engine cowl nearest the IDG (integrated drive generator) access panel. A leak is not typical of Rolls-Royce engines. Judging by the leak location, I was hoping that it was a simple overservicing issue, analogous to overfilling the oil in a car’s engine.
Upon my return to the cockpit, I informed my copilot, Bruce Wilmer, of the problem. In a relaxed tone, he conveyed the information to maintenance via our company radio frequency. After nearly 20 years with the airline, Bruce’s seniority had allowed him the opportunity to upgrade to captain on the 737. He had been a captain for seven months and then the rug had been pulled out from underneath him. He was eager to put four stripes back on but was still grateful to have the big-iron experience. In any case, an oil leak was not going to raise his blood pressure.
In the meantime, we began our before-starting-engines checklist.
Interestingly enough, my checklist responses were accompanied by the curious vocals of a barking dog. Thinking that the barking was originating from the forward cargo compartment below, we completed all of the required items undaunted by the distraction. It took only another brief moment to realize that the yapping was actually occurring on board in the first-class cabin. Eric’s consternation as he stepped into the cockpit confirmed this fact.
Fortunately, the dog owner was embarrassed and had already begun step one of the bark reduction plan. A Benadryl had been administered. Step two of the plan was the owner’s request to keep a reassuring hand on the dog’s head through the open flap of the portable kennel. Judging by the fact that the dog never uttered a peep for the remainder of the flight, I’d place bets that step one was the more effective.