More often than not, the aircraft would push back from the gate on time, and sit. The aircraft would show “off the blocks” on time, but it would sit on the tarmac, waiting for the temperature to fall.
Beverage service would commence, movies would be shown, and many times the wait turned out to be several hours before the aircraft could depart into the falling temperatures of the late afternoon. The plane would turn about every 30 minutes while waiting so passengers on each side of the aircraft could benefit from alternating sun and shade...
This, of course, was assuming the aircraft didn’t have something break while at the gate, which was pretty often."
I've never flown on an L-1011. More of the article segment shown above, by Scott Laird and talking about his favorite airplane, can be found in the Oklahoma City Airport Examiner.
I wanted to share that part of Scott's recollections with you, though, because the segment makes a good point often forgotten: a plane sitting on a tarmac for hours is not a new phenomenon, and in fact, was once more common than it is today. What's different is how people are treated.
In Scott's story, the crew serves drinks and shows movies. Today, passengers are forced to stay in their seats, bludgeoned with threats of arrest if they do not comply. Flight attendants keep passengers from getting up to use the bathroom, claiming that takeoff is imminent, even when they know that it will be hours before anything changes.
That, more than anything, captures the difference between aviation three decades ago and what we endure today.