If there is an informal poll for “Worst Commerical Airport – Passenger Category” – my vote would go to SFO – San Francisco. Even getting there, between the weather and the traffic, can be a challenge. I can remember years ago, picking up my parents, that the wind and rain was so strong that I would unintentionally change lanes driving over the Bay Bridge. And on that bridge, it’s a long way down.
And because traffic can really bite you, sometimes I’ll leave an hour earlier than what I think I really need.
Once you get there – turning off from the Bayshore Freeway – that’s US 101 – you are funneled into several “Y” intersections with little time to react.
I think that they built this facility over the years in sort of an “ad hoc” manner and any “master plan” to handle the traffic went by the wayside.
At least that’s my opinion.
So anyway, I found myself in a long line – slowly stopping and going – to get to the United Terminal – arrivals. 30 minutes later, I spied an open space and a policeman immediately tells me I can’t stop there.
“No soup for you!” – I have to go around the loop and start all over. Fortunately, one of my would-be passengers, seeing me, starts waving her crutch which got the sympathy of the cop.
But what an ordeal.
Once in the car, they told me about the cruise in the Caribbean. Because of COVID rules, the testing was extensive. People were tested before boarding the ship, and for at least one family, they tested positive. For them was a mandatory 14 day stay in isolation in a special Miami hotel and a credit for a future voyage from the company.
Then there was testing on board. My friend tested positive and was put into isolation in his own cabin. Dinner was delivered by a steward in a Hazmat Suit. Can you imagine the reaction of the of people in the adjoining cabins?
Fortunately this was later determined to be a false positive and he was set free. But 2 of the intended ports, upon learning the COVID news, denied the ship entry.
I told my friend that I was glad I just took some road trips this year.
I am almost finished with my latest book, Apollo 13, by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kruger.
I remember those days. By Apollo 13, the world had gotten so used to moon landings that the news people really cut back on the coverage.
Until there was an explosion in the service module. Then the world became interested.
I’ve often thought subsequently to that that one doesn’t truly know stress until you are over 200,000 miles from earth with the life support systems failing.
The book goes into a lot more detail than the movie, which I thought was excellent. Without the concerted effort of thousands of people those 3 astronauts would have died in space.
Just as an example, I did not know that the new procedures for re-powering up the command capsule involved a readback of 1 hour 45 minutes. Those exhausted and cold astronauts had to get every step right in the sequence.
But there was a bit of humor in all of this, probably as a stress relief. To conserve precious power, it was decided that the 3 astronauts all had to leave the command capsule, power it down, and live in the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM.
North American Rockwell was the prime contractor for the command capsule and Grumman Aerospace was the contractor for the LEM. I did not realize until reading the book that at Bethpage, NY, Grumman had their own people monitoring the status of the LEM at various consoles.
And this portion in the book caught my funny bone:
“The laughter started at one end of the lunar module control room at the Grumman plant in Bethpage and gradually spread to the other. Tom Kelly, who had been wedded to his console in a corner of the room since he and Howard Wright had flown down from Boston in the early hours of Tuesday morning, had not heard much merriment in the three days he had been here, and he didn’t have a clue as to what this outburst was about. Several consoles away, he noticed that a thin sheet of yellow paper was being passed from controller to controller, each of whom looked it over and emitted a loud bark of laughter. Kelly waited for the paper to arrive at his station. Scanning the sheet, he recognized where it was immediately, and with a mixture of surprise and amusement, read on. The thin yellow sheet Kelly had been passed was a copy of an invoice that Grumman would send to another company when Grumman supplied a part or service. In this case, the company being billed was North American Rockwell, the manufacture of the command module Odyssey. On the first line of the form, underneath the column headed “description of services provided”, somebody had typed: “towing, four dollars first mile, one dollar each additional mile. Total charge, $400,001.00” on the second line the entry read: “charge, Road call. Customer’s jumper cables. Total $4.05.“ The entry on the third line: “oxygen at $10/pound. Total $500.“ The fourth line said: sleeping accommodations for two, no TV, air-conditioned, with radio. Modified American plan with view. Pre-paid. (additional guest to room at eight dollars a night).“ The subsequent lines include an incidental charges for water, baggage handling, and gratuities, all of which, after a 20% government discount, came to $312,421.24.”
The author went on to say that the bill was not sent to North American until the astronauts arrived back on earth safely.
The humor definitely would have been gone had they perished. Which was very likely.
01/06/22 – Here is a nice 7 minute video produced by NASA that summarizes Apollo 13’s issues.