The most important person at your airport

No, it’s not the control tower operator, it’s not the person who mows the grass, and it’s not the person who plows the snow – it’s an AOG (aircraft on the ground) transient.

Mechanic working on airplane
There’s no better feeling than finding help at a strange airport.

Here is a pilot with a spouse and/or children, or a couple of friends, stranded at an airport where they may have stopped for fuel, to play golf, or whatever else you can only do having your own aircraft. There’s nothing worse than being stranded when you don’t expect it. We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t yet, you will be someday.

Following are a few short clips on experiences I’ve had and how well I was treated.

New Year’s Eve, yes, New Year’s Eve after dark. In descent to get fuel at Albany, GA, on the way to Ft. Lauderdale, the power would not come off my left engine. Before landing we cut power on the left engine and landed using only the right engine. I’m thinking we’ll have to spend New Year’s Eve in Albany, GA, but instead a mechanic (accompanied by a Catholic priest visiting from Ireland) returned to the airport. After the mechanic took care of a pin in the linkage of the carburetor, we fueled and even got a blessing for the rest of the trip!

Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee. While teaching a three-day ground school, it was pointed out that one of the main gear tires on my Aztec was flat. I was tired and anxious to get back to Cincinnati. Lo and behold the gentleman who arranged this ground school, Greg Gorak (a recent inductee into the Flight Instructor’s Hall of Fame), produced a Learjet pilot who was also an A&P. Believe it or not, on a Sunday afternoon he was able to get a new tire and tube and I got to sleep in my own bed.

Landing at Vero Beach. On the way to the Caribbean my autopilot failed. As luck would have it, the FBO produced an avionics technician who diagnosed the problem and pushed the coaxial cable back into my attitude indicator.

There are more examples, which you would expect in 14,000 hours of flying, but in almost each and every case, I was recognized as an AOG transient and treated as the most important guy on the field!

It goes without saying that’s our policy here at Sporty’s. I hope your airport culture is the same.

4 Comments

  • The couple of times our airplane has had mechanical problems the pilot flying has had to leave it.

    There was the time I was at Frederick, MD and didn’t have the right IAP book to continue our long trip to Missouri and Arkansas. Sporty’s had shipped us the wrong one and the local folks didn’t have it.

    Low and behold, I ran into Hal. I introduced myself and mentioned I was one of his customers. He responded “A happy one, I hope”. Since he brought it up, I told him about the wrong approach book. That fine gentleman said “We can fix that”, and took us out to the company jet, pulled the correct volume from the rack behind the pilots, and gave it to us. That’s service!

  • About six months ago, I arrived at my aerodrome to find a gentleman with the cowling off his C-182. It had developed a significant oil leak, and he was stuck there until it could be remedied. While he was initially reticent to accept help, he became more willing when I told him that i was an A&P, and as of that moment…my time was his time!
    After a brief period of cleaning and tracing the path of the oil flow, it became apparent that the issue was the seal on his aftermarket type oil filter assy. That (to him) was a problem as he knew that there was no way to get the replacement O-ring on a Sunday in out little town. However, I suggested that we simply remove the after market unit, and put on a standard filter. I rounded up the correct filter for his O-470, installed it, and he was heading home in short order.
    As if the good feeling of helping out someone in need was not enough, a week or so later, I received a package in the mail from him. Before we parted company after the repairs, I had told him that I owned a Piper Pacer. Unbeknownst to me, he had a tool for changing the bungees on this type of plane, that was unneeded by him and he sent it to me! What a more than adequate repayment for a few hours of my time!
    P.S. My Father in Law lives very close to Clermont Co. Airport, and I don’t miss an opportunity to visit Sporty’s when I am in town. I am always pleased by how personable Hal Shevers is when I meet him on the ramp. I am not surprised by Mr. Shevers’ actions in the previous post.

  • Pilots of homebuilt and older aircraft often report that, when stranded away from home, members of local EAA chapters or builders of the same aircraft type generously come to their rescue. Parts, tools, time, expertise, encouragement, even food and lodging may be provided. It would be a sad day if the GA community were to lose this “band-of-brothers-and-sisters fellowship.

  • Last summer my wife and I were returning from Michigan to our home in Florida in our Skyhawk. The weather developed and we ended up landing at Batavia, Ohio, home of Sporty’s, for fuel. it happened to be a Saturday so we enjoyed our complimentary hot dogs and even got to meet Mr. Shevers.

    The Sporty’s folks provided us with a courtesy car when we learned that the rental car outfit had closed up for the day and had no cars remaining anyway due to a number of events in town. They also spent some 25 to 30 minutes calling around town helping us to locate a hotel room for the night. We were fortunate to find one nearby at the a Hampton Inn.

    The nice folks at Sporty’s could not do enough for us. Their hospitality was amazing and just like this article says, we were treated like the most important people at the airport. Thank you, again, Mr. Shevers. Our visit to your facility is a special memory for us!

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