These Are Your Most Out-Of-Depth Driving Experiences

I used to load aircraft at PHL back in the early ‘90s.

One night, the crew that I worked on finished up early (i.e. on time, for once) and we all headed back to the shop to clock out. I had just come out of the locker room after changing and washing up when I heard the radio in the office beep.

I was the only one around, and I was going to ignore it and go home, but something made me answer.

The voice on the other side was the lead for the other crew. He told me their forklift blew a hydraulic line and to have someone drive the other forklift down to their aircraft at the far end of the airport.

Since there was no one else around, that someone was me.

Now, I had driven the small propane-powered lifts inside the warehouse before, but I had never handled the 15,000 lb diesel-powered big boy we used on the ramp. But, how hard could it be, I thought.

I put on my headset and crank up the diesel engine. Even with the headset, the noise from the engine was loud as hell.

Second lesson – airport tarmac is not nearly as smooth as a concrete warehouse floor and the only suspension is your gluteus maximus so every bump and crack gets transmitted from the wheels directly to your spine.

Lesson #3 – There is absolutely no protection from the elements, so even at a modest 10-15 mph on a 50-degree night, the wind chill cut right through my street clothes. Less than a quarter of the distance to the other end of the airport, I wished i had taken the time to go back in the locker room and put on my jumpsuit. My hands quickly went numb.

Lesson four: A 15,000 lb forklift does not handle like my ‘82 Mustang; I took a curve too fast and thought I was going to flip the thing.

By the time I got to the far end of the ramp, I had had enough of the big lift and was happy to turn the keys to the team lead. I had to wait 20 minutes to catch a ride back to the shop on one of the tugs.

When the boss approached me the next night asking if I wanted to get qualified on the big lift, I politely declined.