There Are Three Reasons a Plane Won’t Take Off

Neal Langerman urges patience when one of the three is present
Neal Langerman, Principal Scientist, Advanced Chemical Safety
Neal Langerman, Principal Scientist, Advanced Chemical Safety

Dr. Langerman is a chemist, earning a PhD in biochemical thermodynamics at Northwestern University. He received a BS in Chemistry from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Following a NIH Post-Doctoral year at Yale, he joined the faculty of the Departments of Biochemistry and Pharmacology at Tufts University Medical School in 1970. In 1975, he went west and joined the Chemistry Department of Utah State University. At both Tufts and USU, he assumed responsibility for departmental safety programs. In 1979, Dr. Langerman learned of RCRA, and this started him on his career as a consultant. 

Dr. Langerman established his first consulting company, Chemical Safety Associates, in 1980, in conjunction with other members of the USU faculty. He headed this firm until 1997, when he sold his interests in MSDS production and set up his current consulting firm, Advanced Chemical Safety.  

Dr. Langerman’ s professional interests are in the prevention of chemical incidents and injuries. His professional time is spent consulting on chemical safety & security, and regulatory issues. He served as the Chair of the Division of Chemical Health and Safety of the American Chemical Society in 2004 and also, in 2004 and 2013, received the Tillsman-Skolnick Award for contributions to the field of chemical health and safety through the ACS from the Division.

Dr. Langerman is an avid SCUBA diver and photographer.


Some background. I started hardcore business travel in about 1978. For many years I “commuted” weekly from San Diego to Chicago or Tulsa. I also have traveled extensively around the Pacific rim and Europe. I racked up more than a million miles on two separate airlines.

What is the one essential piece of personal tech you always travel with? 

Today I would be lost without my cell phone. I get flight updates, locate airline clubs, and use it to resolve the hiccups that occur. I use noise cancelling earbuds to reduce cabin noise and a tablet for reading.

Window or aisle?

My preferred seat is forward bulkhead, port side, on the aisle. 

Where would your dream business trip take you? What appeals to you about this destination? 

For business, I always enjoyed Pacific rim destinations because of the different cultures they provide. The people, architecture, food, and ambiance provided continual learning experiences.

Airport you are highly motivated to avoid, if at all possible. Why?

EWR (Newark, New Jersey). Significant arrival/departure delays are the norm. The airport is old and not at all friendly to the traveler, especially one stuck there on a multi-hour delay. On the flip side, MIA (Miami) is a sensory pleasure. From the floors to the ceiling, the shops and services, and the people from around the world, it provides constant stimulation.

How do you pass the time while flying?

Reading. While I can easily sleep on a flight, I prefer reading. I started with a printed book and now use either an eReader or a tablet.

Where did your very first business trip take you? What do you most remember about that trip? 

I don’t remember my first business trip. An early one I recall was in 1978 from SLC to DEN to attend an EPA conference introducing RCRA (Hazardous Waste regulations) to the academic community. In retrospect, it was a defining event for my career.

What is your go-to snack to bring on-board the plane?

None. At most, I bring on a bottle of water.

Favorite ACS meeting site? 

My hometown, San Diego. I generally lose myself in the intensity of the meeting and the interactions with colleagues, so the glitter of the location is not very important.

What do you do to alleviate jet lag? 

For whatever reason, I do not suffer jetlag. My body seems to adapt to the local time when I land, and I function as if the local time zone is where I usually live.

Was there a business trip you have taken that went particularly badly?  What happened?

I was scheduled to lecture at an East Coast university. When I landed, I received a message from a very irate colleague that I was a “no show.” I had the wrong date on my calendar.

Your best business travel tip for readers of ACS Industry Matters?

Things will always happen to mess up your plans. Go with it and avoid venting your frustration on the airline staff.  Remember, there are only three reasons a plane will not fly –

  • There is something wrong with the air you will travel through
  • There is something wrong with the equipment
  • There is something wrong with the crew

and you do not want to be off the ground for any of those reasons.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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