I don't normally do red-eye flights coming back from the west coast, but I really needed some time in the office today, so I took a 22:35 flight out of San Francisco last night rather than losing the whole day in the air.
The flight from SFO got into ATL on time, and the flight from ATL to Richmond (a regional jet) actually pushed back from the gate 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Since I fly between ATL and RIC a couple dozen times a year, I know what turns to expect depending on whether the flight departs to the east or the west. When this flight made one more steep turn than usual, I knew something was up.
Sure enough, a couple minutes later the pilot came on the intercom with the bad news; the flaps were stuck and wouldn't fully retract, so we had to return to ATL. To make matters worse, the flaps wouldn't extend any more, either, meaning we had to land at a much higher than normal speed. To the pilot's credit, he brought the RJ in for a smooth landing, but the rollout was long, and I think he was standing on the brakes. He used every foot of the runway, and there were crash vehicles standing by. Purely precautionary in this case, I think.
Delta conjured up a replacement aircraft pretty quickly, and we were soon airborne again for RIC. On initial approach to Richmond, the pilot reported a 300 foot cloud ceiling, meaning visibility was pretty limited. I think 300 feet was a generous estimate. Once we broke out of the cloud cover, we were on the ground in about 8 seconds.
Better late than dead, I guess.