London – Thursday, September 17, 2009

Would you like to hear a story of high adventure? Well, maybe medium-level adventure.

We were scheduled to leave Philadelphia on Tuesday evening, the 15th, and arrive in London on Wednesday morning, the 16th. However, as the plane sat on the runway, seconds before take-off, it was discovered that fluid was spilling out on the blacktop. Take-off was canceled, and we went back to the terminal to have the situation investigated while we sat in the plane. The captain explained that the fluid was hydraulic fluid and the mechanics needed to make an investigation.

The pilot had seen a warning light on his instrument panel but did not know what it was indicating. It was the pilot behind him who radioed in to say that he was seeing fluid from our plane spilling out on the blacktop!

Three hours went by; they served us our dinner.

Then the captain reported that the replacement part would need to come from another state. So we will need to disembark from the plane, collect our luggage, go to a hotel for the night, and return to the airport for a departure on the following evening, Wednesday evening. Moans and groans from all passengers. But there was nothing to do but do what the captain said.

Which is why we arrived at Heathrow Airport on this morning, Thursday, instead of Wednesday. I had no essential meetings in London on Wednesday, so the delay was not critical for me. This was not the case for some of the other passengers.

One of the positive outcomes of the delay was that the passengers talked with each other and learned to know each other better than is usually the case. I had delightful and profitable conversations with:

Three students from Germany who had spent a month in US.
A family of six, Algerians. The husband and father had lived and worked in US for 13 years or more. Now they are returning to Algiers, but the father will return to US for six months of work every year in order to support his family.
A 20-year-old student from Turkey, who had worked in Ocean City, MD, for three months and was returning home with a suitcase overweight with clothing and other gifts. I was able to help him understand and resolve the weight limit situation. He was eager to talk about Islam and Christianity, and told me a lot about Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims. This year Ramadan continues through September 20. We exchanged email addresses.

God was merciful to us all in regard to this airplane situation. We are truly grateful to God – and to the pilot behind our plane for reporting the leak in time to interrupt our take-off.

We are now in Harrow, a section in the northwest of London, staying in an apartment (a home, actually) in a residential area. The apartment is where Hope lives, but she is in US for visa clarification, so as a cost-saving measure we are staying in her apartment instead of the hotel where we usually stay.

This means that we will miss the interaction with our Pakistani friends who sit at the front desk of the hotel, but at least we can drop in to see them occasionally.

We are to return to US on October 1. A little less adventure on the way home will be fine with me.


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