Editor’s Note: This story was submitted by our friend Kaiser. I thought this story was VERY relevant given the country’s current economic situation. Thanks for the words Kaiser!
I grew up in a small town, population 23,000, in Southern Oklahoma. It was a one-company town, and that company had a nice fleet of aircraft. Our airport was uncontrolled with one, five thousand foot runway. I was in Civil Air Patrol and we had a small meeting place on the airport within walking distance of the main hangar. The hangar doors were open the majority of the time and the staff there was always accommodating to budding aviators. The hangar and everything in it was immaculate. There was a Gulfstream I, a couple of twin Beachcrafts, PA-18s, a Cessna Citation, and a few more birds. At night the gleam of the lights on the aircraft made for a picture perfect postcard that could rival any aviation art today.
Once when doing “hangar time”, there was an open door inside the shop part of the hangar that I had never seen open before. Inside it contained shelves of avionics. On top of one shelf was a dirty, grimy, oily, and grease covered wooden propeller. I asked the A&P, whom I had made friends with, if it was for sale. He asked me how much money I had on me. I started pulling ever dollar bill, dime and nickel I had on me and came up with thirteen dollars and seventy-four cents. SOLD! I brought it home and spent hours cleaning it up, shining the leading edges and painting the hub and tips. Today, 49 years later, it hangs above our breakfast nook table. It’s one of the first things one sees down our hallway when walking into our house.
One may think the thrust of this discussion is about my prop, but no. Rather it’s about “hangar time”. By hanging out at our hometown airport, I’ve gotten free rides, flown as a check pilot when someone has been working on their instrument, and even right-hand-seat (second-in-command) time in some of those hometown corporate airplanes. So my point is, if you are one of the many thousands of us that has a hard time putting back dollars and cents to rent an airplane, find yourself a user friendly airport. For every large airport there are hundreds of small, one runway, uncontrolled airports where the local FBO is doing his best just to survive. Try building a friendship with him or her. Work your way in gradually. If you’re sincere, and they can tell, do what you can to help them out, cut grass, do chores, etc., They will usually be glad to let you hang out with the other hangar timers. It will pay off in the long run.
You may wind up buying a prop for pennies, or you may get a ride or two. (You may not be PIC, but it beats doing a lot of nothing.) You may be lucky enough to get the compass out of a B-47 just because someone else was tired of it and offers it to you. (Yep, me.) And at the very least, pilots like nothing more, except the act of flying itself, than talking about flying. You can pick up some really great flying stories. For me, it’s really hard to beat good, quality hangar time.