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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Terrorist Attack In Buenos Aires


It was Monday March 21 in Buenos Aires. I was at the Aero Parque Airport getting ready to Board Lan Argentina flight number 4544 to Sao Paulo. I was looking forward toa rriving and going to my daughter's apartment. It was going to be a nice evening and final time together before I flew back to the US the following day.

I heard that an Aerolinas Argentina flight going to Santiago had been cancelled. My flight kept getting delayed. Then there was an announcement that all flights in the Buenos Aires area had been delayed due to problems with the air traffic control system. I ate a late lunch and was sure that we would start flying again. Then the awful news came that all flights had been cancelled. We were told to recover our luggage.

I did so. I saw a huge line forming for the airlines counters. I declined to get involved with this madness. I heard aBuenos Aires radio commentator comment tha tit would take 72 hours to get flights back to normal. I caught a taxi and went back to the Bohemia Buenos Aires Hotel. When I arrived I was thankful that they had a room for me.

The next morning the television news and newspapers gave the chilling news that sabotage was suspected in the crash of the air traffic control system for a city of 16 million people. Perhaps it was some disgruntled union people demanding a 25% raise to cover the ravages of inflation. Perhaps iot was some terrorist group trying out a new tool.

If you have been a pilot or a passenger for many years you get very frightened when you hear about an air traffic control system crashing. If you are up there in the air, you know where your plane is. But you do not know what is going on around you. There could have been quite a number of midair collissions during that failure. Hundreds or thousands of people could have been killed. God knows what the property losses could have been!

The next morning I went to the LAN Argentina office. I got the oggod news that I could fly out Wednesday March 23 to Sao Paulo and then connect with flights back to the USA.

It was a rainy and cool Wednesday when I arrived again at Aero Parque Airport full of hope tha tI would make it out of Buenos Aires. I got my bag checked and passed through security and immigration. I went back to gates 13-14 to wait. We boarded the flight late. We sat on the ground for a couple of hours.  We saw people getting off other flights. Our captain announced that baggage handlers at the airport had staged a wildcat strike and no luggage was being loaded on aircraft. Somehow we got our luggage loaded and began the long taxi in the rain and cold. Our plane lifted off into zero visibility weather. We bounced for the first hour. I was in dread. I was sure that any moment we would collide with another plane hidden in the clouds. I wondered if any one was in air traffic control.

We got through the zero visibility and climbed above the clouds. We made it to Sao Paulo. Iw as rushed on a flight to Lima and connected with a flight to LosANgles. I was releived to be still alive.