Thick skin required
LAURAN PAINE JR.
Are those of us in aviation weird or do we just have more fun than others? I know, that’s a loaded ques- tion, but a series of summer airport happenings force
me to ask.
Across the taxiway from my hangar is a portable toilet.
One summer day, as I drove around the corner toward my
hangar, I noticed Frank’s car parked by it. I parked my truck,
opened the hangar door, and then walked toward Frank’s car
and saw the keys were in it.
An irresistible force came over me. I got in Frank’s car and
moved it to behind my hangar, then went inside and tried to
look busy. Across the way, Frank opened the door of the por-
table toilet. He stood in silence for a minute, then, looking
around, he bellowed, “There was a car here when I went in.”
Then he pulled out his cell phone and bellowed again, “Lock
down the airport—there’s a car missing here.”
He then looked toward my open hangar; his head cocked
to one side a bit, and he began walking toward me. By this
time, I was leaning over the
fuselage of my airplane—laugh-
ing. The jig was up.
Two weeks later I was in
the chair at the barber shop.
The barber said, “I hear you
steal cars.” Frank had spilled the
beans—to everyone he could!
I’ve since mended the error of
my ways, and Frank no longer
leaves his keys in his car. Win-win.
Then there was the day Doug was preflighting his Cherokee,
preparing to take a young lady he was trying to impress for
an airplane ride. He conducted the preflight with flair, all the
while talking and using big words like “aileron” and “flap”
and “empennage.” The young lady was obviously impressed,
right up until the time Doug’s friend, J.P., said, “Hey, Doug,
what you gonna do about this missing fuel cap?” Doug’s jaw
dropped with a ‘how could I miss that!’ look.
Sweat broke out on his brow. The young lady watched
him, aplomb broken, as he scurried about the airplane looking hither and yon. “Here, try this one,” J.P. said, removing
the fuel cap from his back pocket.
The result of all that? Doug does better preflights now—
The ’ 64 Volkswagen Beetle I’m restoring was parked
outside my hangar. Doug wanted to drive it. “Keys are in
it,” I said. The VW was parked nose toward the hangar so
Doug had to back it up.
Any of you old-timers remember where reverse gear
is in a Beetle? Doug tried every gear position he knew.
Each time he let out the clutch, the Beetle crept forward.
Unfortunately for Doug, three other “airport bums” were
at my hangar to witness the debacle. Insults were being
hurled that berated Doug’s intelligence, manhood, and
mechanical ability. Finally, deciphering the instructions
imbedded in the insults, Doug pushed down on the shift
lever and then moved it to the left and back and…backed
up. Thing is, to this day, Doug can’t park his own car without someone at the airport saying, “Hey, Doug, did ya park
it so you don’t have to back it up?”
Doug tried every gear position he knew.
Each time he let out the clutch, the
Beetle crept forward. Unfortunately for
Doug, three other “airport bums” were
at my hangar to witness the debacle.
Folks, this column is about ‘tough love.’ To be a good
airport bum, you have to have 0.040-inch thick skin. Most
do—that’s what makes it fun. Tom, my friend from Texas,
says that that’s what friends are for.
Another Tom (not Tom-from-Texas) had to give George
an aviation test. George asked Tom to give him the
answers. That was back when you put an overlay over the
grading sheet, and if correctly marked, the answer would
show through the hole in the overlay. So Tom took a hole
punch, punched a bunch of holes, and sent the hole rem-
nants to George, saying, “Here are the answers.”
At our airport, we’re responsible for mowing the grass