This One's for the Birds
By Charles Dobrescu (as told to Emil Schoonejans)

There we were, whistling along as we were driving Flight 840 toward LGA on a Sunday back in the 70s.

After a totally routine four days of flight pairings it was good to be getting home to the wife and kids. I parked my car and since today was Sunday, I knew Ruth would not greet me as she did after my last trip -- my first as Captain. I recalled with a smile what she did last week even before she said, “Hi, honey,” when she had handed me the trash to take out and to “Hurry, the truck’ll be here in a minute.”

I even hadn’t had time to drop my flight kit as I complained, “You want me, in my handsome Captain’s uniform to take out the garbage?  I don’t want to do that in uniform! She said “Why not, they pick it up in uniform.”  

I wisely replied, “Yes, dear.” Ah, my dear Ruth … always cheerful and trying to put a smile on everyone’s faces. The sanitation truck arrived and I could no longer avoid the task at hand. The garbage men enjoyed her joke and stood there at attention saluting me as I brought the trash out to the curb … dear Ruthie had just made their day!

I also hadn’t even had the time to tell her how I had made the day for some other folks I’d touched that day.

After landing on LaGuardia’s runway 13, we had rolled out to the end, turned right leaving the active runway, and right again to head for the terminal. After checking in with LGA’s Ground Control, I asked,  “Will you guys put the glasses on me, I think I’ve had a bird strike?” 

This dialog followed:

Ground: “Say again TWA 840, you’ve had a bird strike?”

Me:  “Yes, Ground, I may have hit a bird!”

Ground:  “We are looking at your aircraft, TWA 840.”

Me:  “Good, Ground, what do you see?”

Ground:  A sound of a keyed microphone but complete silence except for what sounded like a chuckle.

Me: “D’ya see any blood and guts on my airplane?”

Ground: “Where were you when you had the bird strike?”

Me: “We were on approach when I encountered a flock of ‘fluttering fowl’ at the final fix.”

Ground: Outright laughter … then, “Roger TWA 840.”

When parked at the gate, I opened my sliding window and retrieved the rubber chicken which I had tucked under my windshield wiper. I had placed it there after having left the active runway and out of the tower’s line-of-sight. The typical Sunday crowd on the LGA terminal building’s observation deck seemed to have understood the appearance of a joke, even though they were not privy to the radio chatter.

I don’t know why, but for some reason my First Officer and Flight Engineer left the cockpit in a hurry before I was finished putting away my rubber chicken. I always took great care when placing it into my flight kit to make sure that at least one leg was showing outside of my bag. Just then I heard a voice from someone standing in the open cockpit doorway asking, “Do you do this sort of thing often Captain?”

Without looking up from my flight kit, I answered, “Only when I think the FAA is not around”  

He said, “I am the FAA”.

Naturally the required report was made to Capt. Dick Forristall, TWA’s General Manager of Flying at JFK, and the obligatory colorful reprimand took place prior to my next flight. 

I “gamely” put my chicken on the furlough list … but only for a while as he/she was subject to early and fairly frequent recall!!!!

Charles V. Dobrescu (1951-1987) served as a mechanic, flight engineer and captain at LGA.