Monday was such a day, when American Airlines Flight 163 bound for Los Angeles found itself literally grounded by 1,400 pounds of what the pilot termed "government documents." The excess weight had to be unloaded before the flight could take off from Reagan National Airport in suburban Arlington, Virginia.
It seemed fitting for Washington, a town where documents -- shredded or not -- figure prominently in the daily narrative.
Robert Hernandez, an associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California, couldn't help but chuckle when he heard the announcement.
"Sooooo... my flight is delayed because it has too much weight. The pilot announced that they are now going to unload 1,400 lbs of FEDERAL PAPERWORK. wut" - Robert Hernandez @webjournalist 6 Aug
"I don't know if the pilot was kidding or not, but we were overweight," he said.
Hernandez, in town for an academic journalism conference, joked that perhaps it had something to do with the Robert Mueller investigation, which has amassed more than a million pages of documents since it began last year, according to some reports.
Matt Miller, an American Airlines spokesman, confirmed that a flight was delayed about 30 minutes and that the airline removed 1,400 pounds of cargo. As to whether all that weight was federal paperwork, he's not certain. The captain's comment, he said, may have been in jest.
American Airlines has a contract with the U. S. Postal Service to transport mail, he said, so some of that weight could have been overstuffed flat rate boxes and birthday cards bound for the West Coast.
Miller said the cause was a weather-related weight restriction -- there were storms followed by intense heat Monday -- and that meant the crew had to lighten up the plane. As was shown during last year's heat wave in Arizona, when American was forced to cancel dozens of flights in and out of Phoenix, air is less dense when it's hot, which can affect an aircraft's ability to get off the ground.
Other than the paperwork problem, Hernandez said, the flight was uneventful, but the memory still makes him laugh.