A T- 6, a Citation, RVs, Cessnas, Pipers,
Citabrias, a Champ, and an Apache. A
Blackhawk helicopter from the local
National Guard unit. A ’ 64 Chevy Corvair,
a ’ 57 Ford Thunderbird, a ’ 64 VW Beetle
(mine), a ’ 53 Ford tractor (mine), and
a whole lot more. Everybody is free to
wander, and that’s just what they do. There
are lots of smiles. You gotta like that! I get as
many comments on the Bug and the tractor
as I do the airplane. (I park them together.)
Air-cooled VW people have VW stories. Boy,
do they! And I let the kids roll the windows
up and down, too; most have never done
that! And I let ’em crawl all over the tractor.
That’s good stuff. And one onlooker did say,
after he looked inside my airplane, “I like
your panel.” He obviously likes simplicity;
so do I. And all around the airport, the same
stuff is happening at other airplanes and
cars on display. Wayne, who owns the T- 6,
always lets the kids crawl in and out of his
airplane. And when the people leave, you
get a wave and a smile and a thank-you.
Right there at the local airport! That’s just
good for the aviation soul.
Here’s what it takes for you to do the same
thing: roll out a few airplanes, maybe some
cars, open your hangar doors, and put out a
sign that says “Open House.” It’s dang near
that simple. You might think of it this way, too:
The airport you save may be your own. Don’t
think so? Here’s what we’re up against: Three-thousand people come to the airport and have
a good time, make new friends, and leave
happy, and from the local newspaper, what do
you get? Not a peep. Guaranteed, if I dinged a
wingtip on a landing, they’d be there like flies
on cow pies. That’s what we’re up against.
Beat ’em with neighborliness.
Oh, and you gotta know this: The favorite
airplane at the open house as voted by the kids
in attendance? The Champ! Kids know class
when they see it! That made my heart tingle.
And I hope they get to fly one someday.
One more airport: 7S5, Independence,
Oregon. Nel and I flew our RV-8s and Milon
flew his RV-6 , and we all met there for lunch
one fine, sunny day. We ate on the outside
deck of the local airport restaurant, the
Starduster Café. It was an idyllic airport day at
an idyllic airport. During lunch, an old friend
from our National Guard days stopped by and
visited with the three of us. He was home on
leave from doing aviation maintenance work
in Afghanistan. We had a nice visit. Then he
hopped in his Cessna 150 and flew off.
A little while later I excused myself from
the table with the intention of paying for
my buddy’s lunch at the cash register so as
to avoid the arm wrestling that takes place
when the check comes to the table. (No,
I’m not that generous. I just “owed” Milon
for when he mowed the grass at my hangar
while I was on a long motor home trip.)
Inside the restaurant, I told the waitress,
“I’d like to pay our lunch bill.”
“It’s already been paid,” she said.
“By the guy who just flew off in that
You know what I’m sayin’: Airports
are fun places. They have friendship,
camaraderie, and, yeah, lots of banter. And
airplanes, too! And that is what makes them
so fun. Which is exactly why we need to
share at every opportunity.
Lauran Paine Jr., EAA 582274, is a retired military
pilot and retired airline pilot. He built and flies an
RV- 8 and has owned a Stearman and a Champ. Learn more
about Lauran at his website, www.ThunderBumper.com.