Friday, September 24, 2010

Medical Education in Chicago

I arrived last night in Chicago. Came for a medical conference. Chicago is interesting. It is the only place I have ever been that is cloud covered with 25 mile a hour winds and 85 degrees at 5pm.
The skyline, however, is beautiful and this was the scene from my cabin window as I flew in.

As we are flying over, however, the captain of the plane pulls out of the normal approach pattern and we circled over the city for about five minutes.  He then comes onto the intercom and calmly relates to us that the front landing gear has a problem, an error light has gone off and the crew is not sure if the gear has come down.  

We continued circling . . .

So after circling in a tight turn for another 2-3 minutes, the captain's voice is heard again over the intercom stating that the front landing gear has come down, there has been a visual that the front landing gear is in position and the gear hydraulic warning light turned off. So we all relax.  . .

We begin our approach. . .

"Ladies and gentlemen, the warning light has come back on."   Big sigh is heard throughout the cabin.

A few moments later, we are reassured that the gear has, again, been visually verified to be down, but all air traffic has been diverted to a holding pattern and all the fire crews have been called out.  

"Don't be alarmed when you see fire crews lining the runway for us" we are instructed. 

Images of a 767 "belly sliding" down the runway pass through my mind.  The lady sitting next to me says, "Oh, how nice."  I look out the window and realize that I am sitting next to the turbine.  Multiple scenarios pass through my mind.  A silent prayer is offered. 
I don't think I have ever experienced what felt like such a long runway approach.  It is amazing how you start to wonder how strong your seat belt actually is, how soft the seat back in front of you is if you whack your face on it, and how strong the bolts on your seat actually are if the plane were to slide along the ground.  First aid training, compression on arterial bleeding, acute chemical burn treatment and CPR training flashes through my mind.  

Touch down of the rear landing gear on the tarmac occurs smoothly, then touch down of the front landing gear occurs at the same time a large gasp echoes through the cabin.  No loud noises, no smoke, no crunching metal sounds occur.  I see over 40 fire trucks and ambulances lining the runway, with lights and sirens blaring. 

Applause arises from the cabin as the plane rolls smoothly to a stop at the end of the runway.

Our plane is slowly pulled into the gate with our fire escort. 

"Welcome to Chicago" announces the captain. 

We exit the plane and I walk through the huge O'Hare International Airport.  I am welcome at baggage claim with the following sign:

My hotel bed is very soft.  I slept quite nicely.

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