Everything was on schedule as the Boeing 757 taxied toward the runway at the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. All of a sudden there was a loud crashing sound and the airplane shuttered. Apparently the fire truck driver had gone for lunch and left the emergency brake off. The giant yellow truck rolled across the tarmac and smashed into the plane. No one was hurt, thankfully. A few inches to the left and the truck would have hit one of the engines or worse yet the wing fuel tank. The American Airlines crew and ground staff handled the emergency very professionally. After a safety team had walked through the plane to make sure everyone was ok, all passengers disembarked down a portable stairway and we then walked across the tarmac and up some outdoor stairs back into the terminal. Diaster was avoided but then I witnessed another problem.

Within a half hour, American had arranged for an inbound flight from New York to become the new flight #250 back to New York. The inbound flight was scheduled to arrive at 2:43 PM. I went to the Flight Tracker to check on the flight status. It was at 39,000 feet and projected to land at 2:42 PM. I checked occasionally over the next couple of hours to see the altitude and projected arrival time. The arrival time continuously improved and by 2:15 the projected landing was 2:38 PM. At 2:38 PM the flight landed. American’s web site and the departure board at the airport continued to show 2:43. I had to wonder how an independent web site could know more about the location and timing of an American flight and post it more often than American did.

Three hours after American had said they expected a 3:00 departure their website still showed that the flight had left at 12:07 PM and their airport displays didn’t show any flight to New York. I went to the Admiral’s Club and their display board showed the same information but yet the person at the counter showed a 3:00 PM departure in the system she was accessing — obviously she was accessing a different system than the web site or the display boards were.

If they can’t update their website and display boards after three hours with information that was in at least one of their systems, it made me wonder about the currency and accuracy of information the airline gave to their pilots. Most e-businesses are not yet “on demand” e-businesses, but this case illustrates that some companies are stuggling to achieve basic communication of data between systems. Even though the gate personnel said they were shooting for a 3:15PM departure, I switched to a Continental flight at 3:45 PM.