phi (totient) wrote,

the trouble with turboprops

A friend of mine has recently returned from a trip to West Africa, after a delayed Royal Air Maroc flight. I've had some adventures with Royal Air Maroc myself, and though I haven't yet heard his story I am inspired to tell mine.

I was flying from Boston to Morocco to visit a friend. Lufthansa flies to Casablanca and Tangiers with one change of plane, in Frankfurt. Iberia flies to several destinations in Morocco with a change in Madrid. The only nonstop from the US to Morocco is on Royal Air Maroc, which flies from New York to Casablanca and will ticket from Boston, Montreal, or Washington DC via a code-share with American. I decided that if I was going to get stuck someplace I wanted it to be someplace I could speak the language, and booked my flights accordingly.

Everything went smoothly on the way there and almost all the way back. Casablanca's airport is capable of dealing with much more traffic than was present at the time (nearly a decade ago) and the R.A.M. 747, though aged, had no problems in either direction. The return flight was during Ramadan and I was amused that the long-journey fasting exception applied to alcohol served on the flight as well. I was worried about my 90-minute connection to a different terminal in JFK, but cleared customs in New York in plenty of time to make it onto the last leg, an American Eagle ATR-42. An hour or so into the flight -- just past Hartford -- the airplane lost a generator on one of the two engines. No problem; there are two generators on board. But once a generator has gone, it has to be fixed before the next time the airplane can take off. And American doesn't have ATR maintenance facilities in Boston, only New York. They could have paid someone else to fix the plane in Boston. But it was cheaper to turn around, fly back to New York, and put the bunch of us on a shuttle flight. So back to New York we went. Of course the shuttles fly out of Laguardia, not Kennedy, so we got to endure a chartered bus ride through Queens as well.

Needless to say, I now avoid turboprops (along with checked baggage, running to make connections, and taking the last flight of the day, all of which have stories associated with them) whenever I can. The next time I flew across the Atlantic from Kennedy, I made my connecting flights on TWA, which flies regional jets. And as a bonus, I got to enjoy Eero Saarinen's wonderful architecture along the way.
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