“JFK Control Tower to Trans Air Flight 200. We have a situation on the ground. Please respond.”
“What kind of situation JFK?”
“After your take-off, a body was found on Runway 22E.
Captain Zukerman and his First Officer exchange puzzled glances. “Say again JFK. I don’t think we heard that correctly. It sounded as if you said, “a body was found on runway 22E.”
“Affirmative, Flight 200. A body was found on runway 22E after your take-off. We need to know if you’re experiencing any difficulties.”
“JFK are you saying that we ran over someone?”
“Negative Trans Air. We believe you might have had a possible stowaway.”
“Dennis, call Alexandria and have her do a passenger check.”
“JFK this is Captain Zukerman. We’re having one of the Flight Attendants check the passenger manifest to see if anyone is missing. It’ll take a few minutes. We’ll get back to you, JFK.”
“Captain Zukerman, my name is Agent Sanchez. I’m with the NTSB and I’m heading up the investigation of the body found. As part of that investigation, I’d like to be certain that the young woman’s body, did not impact the condition of the aircraft. Are you experiencing any difficulties handling the plane?
“WOW, the NTSB is already on the case?”
“Yes sir, Captain Zukerman. It’s not every day a body falls off a plane.”
“No. I guess you’re right. My copilot and I were in the middle of our in-flight checklist when you radioed in. We’ll finish that while we wait on Alexandria.”
“Dennis, you got that checklist. Let’s go over it again.”
Minutes weighed like hours as Agent Sanchez waited and watched the minute hands of each of the seven clocks which hung strategically over the controller’s consoles inch their way around each clock. There was a clock for New York, Mexico, London, Rome, Sidney, Cairo, and Belize.
“Agent Sanchez. All paying customers are accounted for and the plane checks out just fine.”
Agent Sanchez relinquished the radio back to the controller.
“Roger that Trans Air Flight 200. Continue your heading on zero zero nine east at twenty-six thousand feet.
“Trans Air we will now hand over control to Heathrow. It’s been nice serving you Trans Air Flight 200.”
“Roger, that JFK. Good luck with your situation.”
Captain Zukerman set his radio frequency to that of Heathrow’s, and leveled off at twenty-six feet, and engaged the autopilot for what he thought was going to be a smooth ride into Heathrow.
“That was weird. A body on the runway. Who the hell do you think we ran over?” Dennis asked.
“Probably one of the baggage handlers. Those guys always think we can see them in those dinky little trucks they drive.”
While they were talking, the two hundred mile marker sounded. Captain Zukerman buzzed Alexandria and asked if she would bring him a cup of coffee, cream – no sugar. Dennis ordered a diet Coke.
“Trans Air Flight 200 this is Heathrow. Welcome to International Waters. My name is Daniel and I’ll be your Flight Controller for the remainder of your flight.”
“Trans Air Flight 200 acknowledging transmission.”
“Trans Air maintain headings. You are on course for London’s Heathrow airport.”
The two men resumed their conversation at the point where it was interrupted by the Heathrow controller and settled in for the remaining ten hours.
About five hours in, Dennis took control of the plane, or watched the autopilot, while Captain Zukerman did his customary meet and greet to reassure the passengers that all was well.
His first stop was the First Class Section where he made sure he informed the passengers that they were about three quarters of the way to London and at the deepest point over the Atlantic Ocean.
As Captain Zukerman was talking with a bubbly sixty-year old woman from Iowa on her dream vacation to London, the Boeing 747 encountered a storm. Dennis flashed the Fasten Seat Signs and radioed Heathrow for instructions.
“Heathrow, this is Trans Air 200.”
“Acknowledged Trans Air.”
“Heathrow, we are experiencing some turbulence. Permission to climb to thirty thousand.”
“Acknowledge. Permission to climb to thirty thousand.”
Captain Zukerman entered the cabin and slide into the Captain’s chair and took control of the plane. “This reminds me of my days flying for FedEx. Come hell or high water the customer always had to get their package.”
Dennis surveyed the heavy dark gray storms clouds looming in front of the cockpit window. “It just scares me shitless. I can’t imagine what’s in those damn fluffy things that make so much noise and lightening when they bump into each other.” Captain Zukerman laughed in spite of the senselessness of the statement and reached for the radio.
“Heathrow, this is Trans Air Flight 200 requesting permission to climb to altitude thirty-two thousand.”
“What is your problem Trans Air?”
‘We are still experiencing turbulence at thirty thousand.”
“Trans Air what is your fuel reading.”
“We got enough, Heathrow.”
Captain Zukerman eased the Boeing up through the gray clouds and driving rain, up to where the sun was shining brilliantly. Dennis let out and audible sigh of relief.
Captain Zukerman was so impressed by the beauty of the sky above the storm that he decided to actually fly the plane instead of putting her back on autopilot.
Alexandria rang from the stewardess cabin and asked if it were ok to serve the passengers alcoholic in hope of calming some frayed nerves. “Go ahead. I’ll put her back on auto and come back there and help convince them that we’re not crashing today.
When Captain Zukerman engaged the autopilot, the plane bucketed as if one of those gray clouds they’d escaped a few minutes ago had come up from below and smacked into the belly of the plane.
Forty-five seconds later Trans Air Flight 200 crashed into the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.