One of the things that a lot of pilots might hate about corporate/air charter flying is being stuck at random airports for many hours while your passengers conduct their business in town. Sometimes you’re at a large airport with a major flight support center like Signature and you’re treated like a king. When you land, a line guy chocks your wheels and puts an actual red carpet out for you and your passengers. When you walk in to the flight center a beautiful young woman greets you with a smile and offers you fresh baked cookies before escorting you to the pilot’s lounge filled leather recliners, cable TV, and often free candy and snacks. When lunchtime comes around they give you a crew car and directions to the best food around. It’s pretty nice.
On the other end of the spectrum is flying into some remote podunk airport that’s miles from the nearest town and just has small rundown shack for the pilots to wait in. No TV, no food, and just a stained old couch to sit on. Now a lot of pilots might think the first example is heaven and the second hell. And if you asked me what I thought I’d say “It depends.”
Sitting the the beautiful and shiny pilot’s lounge at Dallas international might sound great but watching daytime cable TV for 6 hours gets old fast. All that free popcorn, chips, candy, cookies, and soda? Can’t have any of that or pretty soon you won’t be able to pull back on the yoke far enough to takeoff. Walk out onto the ramp? Might be some cool stuff there but usually just a collection of business jets, which are only interesting the first time you look at them up close. The ability to have lunch at your pick of restaurants? Nice, but food is food, who cares. So in the end you’re comfortable, but bored.
Now hanging out at a small airport might be just the opposite of the big guys but not necessarily in a bad way. It might be a shabby building but it also might be filled with shabby old pilots with tons of stories. “Then there other time”. There might be only one place to eat in the nearest small town but it’s a small diner filled with character that serves the best burgers you’ve ever had. (the beer’s cheap too but that unfortunately doesn’t matter unless you get an overnight) And there might not but a vast assortment of free snacks but there might a doughnut left over from yesterday, and hey, there still good, just a little crunchy. And best of all you never know what might be parked on the ramp but it sure won’t be the same boring big shiny jets.
For example, my trusty co-captain Johnny Boy and I flew the Great White Hope down to spinks airport just the other day and really hit the jackpot. Located just south of Dallas Spinks is home to Air Center Helicopters owned by Johnny Boy’s good friend. Air Center provides Helicopter support around the world. One of their main contracts is with the US NAVY providing vertical resupply for ships in the south Pacific and the helicopters they are getting ready to ship out are Airbus H225’s. Johnny boy and I walked over to where some of the helo boys were running one up to check the avionics and got the grand tour. The 225 was a popular helicopter around the world but after 2 crashes in Norway due to main transmission failure the entire fleet was grounded. Airbus did a major upgrade on the transmission but he damage was done. nobody wanted the H225 any more. That’s where Air Center saw it’s chance. They scooped up a bunch of the idle helicopters that nobody wanted for a fraction of their original 33 million dollar price tag and put them to work. Two things make the 225 perfect for the Navy is the fact that the blades fold back allowing two of them to fit inside a ship’s hanger and the fact that they’re only helicopter big enough to fit a jet engine inside.
These guys told us that this bird and 2 others were going to be loaded onto a big Russian Antonov cargo plane and flown to the south Pacific soon.
Spinks airport was literally chocked full of cool aircraft and the time waiting for our passengers just flew by. Just like the flight home where I broke my personal ground speed record. 585 knots! OK, we were in the descent but still.