Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Java Jive

I'm a tea drinker; I've always been a tea drinker. I'll always be a tea drinker. "Very few situations in life can't be fixed by a nice hot cup of tea," I say.

But I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Even my favorite coffee shop fails miserably at making tea, but they make great coffee.

So I've always been intrigued by the airport at Tea, South Dakota (Y14). Listen to the Ink Spots while I tell you about it. There are lots of versions of The Java Jive on YouTube, but Tea is one of those timeless airports you always hear about. The Ink Spots fit the era.

Tea is the closest airport to my sister-in-law's house, and she has been suggesting that we stop instead of Sioux Falls. You know how it goes: the big airport has certain guaranteed services, but the fuel prices are higher and when you go into the FBO lobby all you see are office people dressed for office work. The old FBO in Sioux Falls was even called "Business Aviation;" No right-thinking EAA member would go there. Of course you can be fooled, too; this nice Sonerai is on display in the terminal at Casper, Wyoming (KCPR),

Last year we tried, but Tea is a VFR airport and it was an IFR day. This year's weather was a lot better.

I called ahead to make sure there would be fuel. There was, at the lowest price I've heard in quite a while. "Plenty of tiedowns," he said.

After an easy flight, Tea came into view. I entered the pattern and landed. My sister-in-law was waiting, and someone let her through the gate so we could unload the plane right into her car. That's a good sign. I walked over to the office, and somehow I knew before I got there that there would be a crowd in there, hanging around, watching us with curiosity.

A little dog leapt at my knees when I opened the door. "I'll bet you're in charge here," I said to the dog, and everyone laughed.

"No, that's Tyler, he's in charge," someone said, pointing to the line guy. "And he's our best instructor, too. Where'd you fly in from?"

And so we all got to talking. Where we came from, when was the last time one of them landed there, the weather, the Cherokee Six, a comparison between the Mooney one of the owned and the one I used to own, and on and on and on. "Here's the gatecode," someone said. "Oh, tomorrow morning's the EAA breakfast, be here before 9am." I felt more at home than I have ever felt at my home airport.

We talked long enough that my wife came into the office to tell me that the airplane was completely unpacked.

The next morning my daughter and I headed back for the EAA breakfast. Their EAA chapter is very active; someone said they had built 40 airplanes. Now I think that my EAA chapter is pretty special, too, but there's plenty of "special" to go around, and I was happy to see more of it. We had a nice breakfast and met some wonderful people and saw some neat airplanes.

Too often these days, stopping at the airport means seeing a lot of folks in business casual doing business. Not to belittle it; business is important. But that's all you see at my airport, unless you happen to drive by one of the hangars and find it open. I remember airports where people would routinely stop in after work to talk about airplanes and aviation, but I haven't seen one in a while. But Tea is one of them.

Are there more? Airnav only lists one airport when you search for "coffee." It's a hospital heliport. I think I'll skip it.

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