BAC 1-11 on ramp
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
3 min read

Sometime in the late 80s, somewhere in the Midwest (I think it was Grand Rapids), I taxied a USAir BAC 1-11 toward the terminal after landing on a flight from Pittsburgh. I remember the airport had a small, older terminal and there were no jetways, those loading bridges that almost all airline airports have now, so passengers walked on the ramp. No problem—the BAC 1-11 had its own stairs that slid out from below the passenger door.

As we came on the ramp, I saw there were blocked sections near the terminal where workmen were replacing concrete. The station agent waved us to a parking spot a hundred feet or more from the terminal door. When we were parked, one of the replacement sections was then directly between the airplane and the terminal door. The workmen there were just putting the finishing touches on a recent pouring. A line of orange plastic cones was laid out in an arc on the ramp to guide our passengers from the airplane around the new section and up to the terminal door.

BAC 1-11 on ramp

Between terminal and airplane lies a minefield of sorts.

Don’t get ahead of me. It’s coming, just not now.

A flight attendant put down the stairs. Our passengers got off and dutifully followed the line of cones that led them to the terminal.

It was a beautiful warm afternoon with a light breeze and low humidity. The first officer and I sat in the cockpit with the windows open, doing what you do on a short turn around: filling out paperwork, getting a clearance for the return flight, watching airplanes. You know the drill. Meanwhile, the workmen finished that section and left.

Boarding began for the next flight. A trickle of new passengers came out of the terminal door, singly and in small groups, making the walk, following the cones. After a while the boarding trickle stopped. It was departure time, we were about to close the door.


Running out of the terminal came Joe Businessman in a suit and tie, shoes shined, hat on head, briefcase in hand. He was going to make that flight. His career was at stake. He went straight into the concrete up to his knees and kept going on a line to the airplane. When he came out of the concrete, the lower halves of his legs and his shoes were covered with gray glop, but he was still going forward. We lost sight of him as he went up the stairs into the airplane.

The first officer and I were rocking in our seats, howling with laughter. We were still laughing when the lead flight attendant opened the cockpit door and said, “Be quiet. He can hear you two laughing up here.” Somehow we regained enough of our composure to get the engines started and taxi out.

On the flight back to Pittsburgh, the flight attendants told us they gave him club soda and towels to clean up with and they cleaned the wet concrete footprints down the aisle of the airplane—which is a testament to the dedication of the great flight attendants we flew with in those days.

Sadly, I don’t remember the names of any of the other crew members. If you were there please contact me and let me know if you remember that day as I do.

Steve Robbins
Latest posts by Steve Robbins (see all)
8 replies
  1. Dave Sandidge
    Dave Sandidge says:

    Let’s hope that guy was in the construction business… I’ve seen a lot of strange and humorous things from open cockpit windows, like airport wranglers chasing down stray passengers, but I sure as heck have never seen anyone plowing through fresh concrete on his way to the plane. That’s gotta be a one-and-only scenario.

  2. Steve Green
    Steve Green says:

    Priceless. I can see it now. Would love to have see the guy the next day when he discovered that his trousers would stand up by themselves. We had a first officer do something like that in Paris decades ago. In this person’s defense, it was just getting dark and there had been some bverages consumed…however, for quite some time after that,many 767’s had warnings about wet cement posted inside the escape rope hatches…

  3. Pat Koolen
    Pat Koolen says:

    That guy would have never boarded my plane. Trousers and shoes off and he would have flown home with a blanket around his lower half!

  4. Howard Deever
    Howard Deever says:

    Swell story, Steve. I hear Bugs Bunny laughing & shouting ‘What a maroon!’ as Mr. Biz slogs manfully through the wet gray slop… Must ask: USAir got those -111’s in its acquisition of Mohawk. Did you come with the deal as well? If so, likely you knew my old friend Captain Don Krafft, who started on Mohawk way back in its DC-3 ‘Gay 90’s Gaslight Service’ days & eventually retired from USAir with, I think, number two seniority?

    • Stephen Robbins
      Stephen Robbins says:

      Yes, I had many trips with Don Kraft when I was on the DC-9 in Boston. He was a low-key guy, unflappable, good sense of humor, fun to fly with. I hope he’s still around.
      Don was one of a group of remarkable of Mohawk Airlines captains who were great mentors. At the beginning of my airline career it was my great good fortune as a new low-time co-pilot to be thrust among them. They taught me the job.
      We flew short flights in terrible weather in the Northeast in FH-227s without autopilots. If a weather system was beating up that part of the country we flew in it all day for six or seven takeoffs and landings. I got several thousand hours of hand flying in solid IFR conditions with them. What an education they provided. They flew on altitude, on speed, on track. They did their own calculations. They knew aircraft system flow. They knew the FARs, when to push the limits, when not to. They made good decisions. They protected their crews. I watched and absorbed.
      Thirty two years later I shut down a B-757 and climbed out of the left seat for the last time. It was a great ride.

      • Howard Deever
        Howard Deever says:

        Steve, your characterization of Capt. Don is spot on… As to the FH-227B, I’d not known the type lacked an AP. My WORD but they must have been a handful in those all too common wx extremes of Mohawk’s old routes… That aside, my vote for prettiest airline livery/aircraft combos ever would be Mohawk’s original ‘Air Chief’ Fairchilds; & Braniff’s BAC-111’s before Harding Lawrence’s eccentric ‘jellybeans’…

        Regards, Howard


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *