Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Basics

My student and I noticed that the weather was threatening before we took off, and were doing our maneuvers just outside of the Class D airspace while we kept an eye on it. If it moved in really quickly we could divert downwind. We let the tower know what we were up to, too. It didn't take long for Ken (the controller) to call us and say "The National Weather Service just called on the phone. They say that storm to the southwest has surface winds gusting to 35." We entered the pattern and landed while the storm was still pretty far away.

The storm looked a lot closer while we taxied, and I told Dan "Let's tie it down before we do any debriefing." I took the picture above as we walked in. The Bonanza in the foreground was not tied down. Aha, I thought, a good chance to show my student how aviators, like sailors, take care of each other.

"I'll bet that Bonanza pilot would sure appreciate being moved to a tiedown," I mentioned to the linemen sitting at the desk.

"Nah, he never ties it down." And that was the end of it. They wouldn't let me move the Bonanza, either, for fear of liability.

I thought back to last summer when Landmark Aviation in Sioux Falls called my cell phone while I was enjoying a capuccino downtown.

"We just got a tornado warning. Do you want the airplane put into a hangar?" You bet I did.

Customer service is in a state of flux these days. Too often, it means that the customer provides the service. But in aviation we're supposed to help each other, no matter what.

A few weeks ago, the airplane in the picture to the right was waiting when I arrived at the airport. There was some kind of mixup about whether the FBO had the proper pneumatic starter. The pilot, wearing a NASA jumpsuit, mentioned something about "your new T-38 monument" unless the starter was found.

The T-38 was still there when my student and I landed. It was lunchtime. I approached the pilot, who looked kind of familiar.

"Hey, listen, we treat stranded pilots right around here. My student and I are headed to lunch; it's a pretty good Mexican restaurant. Wanna join us?"

"Thanks, but they say they're gonna get me started in 15 minutes or so, and I'm already late." Of course...and when someone who gets a T-38 for personal transportation is late, it means millions of government dollars.

But we chatted for a while. He was an astronaut who had commanded a shuttle mission. I was pleased to be in a position to offer help.


The T-38 wasn't tied down, either.

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