It was an early afternoon routine short flight plan from Dallas to Chicago. The DC-10 carrying close to 300+ people pushed back from the gate to begin taxing out for departure. In the alley the DC-10 would swing through the de-icing station for a routine rinsing. It was the onset of winter 1992.
Everyone aboard the flight was obviously scheduled to arrive in Chicago for some personal, or business related event. The well seasoned Flight Deck and Cabin Crew were busy keeping the passengers informed and as comfortable as possible under the suddenly imposed ATC Flight Delay.
All the passengers aboard the flight are special, but one passenger at a height of 6'7" seemed to standout a bit more than others. At his height being stuck in the center seat of the coach cabin can add additional stress to the already anticipated stress traveling generates for most passengers. Not to mention when unexpected delays evolve on the horizon.
Matt Biondi, the three time Olympian and winner of 11 Olympic Medals was flying to Chicago to be inducted in to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. (NIASHF) One of the crew members having been a swimmer had recognized the otherwise inconspicuous Olympian who was quietly enduring the delay from the confines of his seat.
Out of curiosity and admiration Matt was invited to join a few crew members on the Flight Deck during the delay to pass the time, talk swimming, and share his reason for being on board. That evening Matt was scheduled to be inducted in to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame located in Chicago. He would be honored and presented his respective place in the "Hall" joining the likes of Mario Andretti, Joe DiMaggio, and Joe Torre to mention a few.
The flight eventually departed Dallas a couple hours late. Heading for Chicago everything was seemingly back on track until ATC asked the pilot to enter "Holding". By the time the hold was over and the flight continued to O'Hare Matt's dinner was already under way. With Murphy's Law in full control the flight arrived safely in Chicago, but to an unexpected dumping of snow that was creating massive ground delays. Getting 100's of delayed aircraft to their respective terminals and gates is a operations nightmare. If not bad enough Murphy added another jab to the long day. A 747 Cargo Jet had become stuck across a taxiway creating another delay.
By the time Matt's flight reached the terminal it was after midnight. He had missed the dinner. Hopefully his chance to visit the flight deck was some consolation, however he never displayed one ounce of outward disappointment. He rolled with the circumstances like the true champion he is.