The first time I flew KLM it was from Idlewild Airport in New York (Kennedy was still President so they hadn’t begun renaming airports after him) to Amsterdam on a DC7. It was the start of a three-month student trip behind the Iron Curtain . . . (in Amsterdam, we would rent VW buses and begin our journey through the campsites of Holland, Germany, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Poland, and — by this time we had ditched our adult leaders — a hotel in Paris) . . . and the underbelly of the propeller closest to me seemed to have a little black line drawn beneath it, which I came to realize was a little oil leak, as . . . drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . drops of oil flew off the back. This concerned me, but as I had never flown alone before, or in a window seat over a wing, I had no way to know for sure it wasn’t standard. Except that the propeller further out on my wing wasn’t doing this, so I became increasingly nervous as it gradually became a drip-drip-drip and then a DRIPDRIPDRIP and then, someplace over Newfoundland — and just as I was finally about to rise from my seat and say something like, “stop the plane!” — flames began flaring out the back and suddenly the plane dropped 2000 feet as the propeller shut off (my first color slide of the trip showed the blade motionless, with the clouds below).
It will not surprise my keener readers to know that I survived.
The two punch lines are — first — that even after we returned to Idlewild on three engines, deplaned, rebooked, and took off seven hours after we first had, we got to Amsterdam early. They had rebooked us on one of those new-fangled “jets.”
The second punchline is that the next time I fly KLM, whenever that is, my aircraft will be powered around the tarmac by a WheelTug system. KLM has now joined Alitalia, El Al, Israir, India’s Jet Airways and Turkey’s Onur Air in signing a letter of intent with Borealis’ subsidiary Chorus Motors’ subsidiary WheelTug. This can’t be bad; and if KLM ultimately likes WheelTug, who knows? Its parent Air France might sign on as well.
And the stock?
I hold on, clutching the mast, resolute, wind-torn, harpoon tightly grasped — for precisely 13 years to the day I’ve been chasing this great light wheel. Which of us will prevail?
[Newcomers: You’ve missed the first 50 chapters. Sorry. Never mind us. Though you should buy a few shares if you have money to blow on a lottery ticket with what I believe are far better than usual odds.]
THE READING ROOM
A lot of people came. I have to get up early for jury duty again so I don’t have time to describe it, but it was good.
Here are some iPhone photos I took just before the guests arrived: