Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The note on the departure board at the Vancouver airport is a little unnerving - beside my flight and destination information is the abbreviation 'WTR ADV.' I wonder what this means, if the flight has been delayed, or cancelled. I am, after all, heading for 'Cancel-gar'.

"What does Weather Advisory mean?" I ask at the counter.

The woman behind the desk gives a patient shrug. "Conditions in Castlegar are fair. So we don't know whether you'll be able to land."

"So the flight's been delayed?"

"Oh, no - they'll fly out there and see how it goes. If they can't get in, they'll turn around a come back."

I raise my eyebrows at this. Surely the airline has a phone? Is anyone at home in Castlegar? Can they look outside and see what the weather is like? Or does landing (or not landing) depend on the skill or temperament of the pilot? Or will a vote be taken among the passengers as we circle above the bowl of a valley in which the Castlegar airport lies? I wonder what the pilot will be able to see from above that will tell him whether or not a landing attempt would be wise. What if he's fed up and doesn't feel like flying back and forth and decides to risk a landing? What if he has a lady friend waiting at the other end? Or prostate trouble and really needs to use the loo? This is a small plane (propellors!) - who will fly the plane should the captain feel the need? And say we have to abort the trip, turn around, come back to Vancouver... do we sit around in the airport waiting for the weather to change from FAIR to SLIGHTLY-BETTER-THAN-FAIR?

All this seems a bit analog to me.

"Don't worry, dear," the woman at the counter says. "The other flights today all had advisories. They all made it in okay."

So, fingers crossed, I board with the other passengers, I stow my horse magazines, digital camera, coat, computer, etc. and settle in for the duration, however long that might be.

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