On Saturday I went to the airport for our weekly safety meeting. I always find this enjoyable; I learn something both during the briefing and during the socializing with other pilots. Learning is good.
After the briefing I decided to go over to the hangar to check the status of the airplane; we were expecting some work to be done late last week and I wanted to see if it had been completed. I swiped my badge at the electronic checkpoint and pulled on the door to the big, corporate hangar. I couldn’t get in. As a sanity check, I tried again. The security mechanism was unlocking the door, but something else was holding the door in place. I figured there was a reason the door was locked and decided that I would try again on Sunday.
I went back on Sunday and had the same results, badge flashed affirmative, the door tried to unlock but something else was keeping the door locked. Perplexed, I went to the FBO (Fixed Base Operations) and asked the friendly woman at the desk why I couldn’t get to the airplane.
“There is a bunch of expensive equipment in the big hangar”, she replied with a smile on her face. When I asked as to how long we would be locked out, she told me that she didn’t know. There was something secret going on.
I convinced the nice person to have someone drive me across the flight line over to the airplane. On our way, I noticed a bunch of tents and such had been put up on the runway side of the buildings. Marines were working out in a makeshift workout area.
Later that day, I read that President Obama announced he would be coming to our area the following Thursday. He is going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to tout the virtues of tourism in The Empire State.
At least I knew why the hangar was locked and why there were Marines working out on an Air Force Base that was decommissioned back in 1995.
On Monday a bunch of military jets and helicopters started doing drills around the area. Last night I decided it was a beautiful night to fly and I was going to snag the opportunity to do some practice landings. I knew I’d have a few more folks than usual as an audience, but I didn’t care because after all, flying is awesome. I went to the airport and used my badge to get through an alternate entrance. When I got to the hangar I found that there would be absolutely no way for me to get the airplane out and where I needed it to be without creating a whole lot of ruckus. There were a half dozen or so trucks parked directly in front of the hangar with twice as many Marines doing things to the trucks. They were measuring the distance from the bottom of the trucks to the ground, the width of the trucks and they were moving gear around. Off to the side were three large helicopters that I mentally dubbed “Marine One”, “Marine Two” and “Marine Three”. A C-17 was landing and a C-130 was in the pattern. Had I worked up the nerve to move this armada out of the way so I could get our Piper Cherokee out of the hangar, I would have been very busy and probably close to my distraction limit in relation to where I currently am as a student pilot. I can safely fly an airplane. Heck, I can even safely land an airplane, but as I’m still converting “routine” to “instinct”, sometimes I have to think an extra second and when you have a C-130 on your tail trying to land behind you, you don’t want distractions.
Since the Marines outnumbered me at over 12 to 1, I decided that I would forgo the opportunity to fly. This pissed me off beyond belief but I just knew that it was the responsible thing to do. I walked up to the hangar and closed the door that had been left open for me by another pilot. I made myself look official by doing a walk around and getting into the airplane and looking at the flight logs, just to show the Marines that I was a real airplane owner. I also made sure my flight line badge was prominently displayed at all times. After I closed the door and made my way to the gate, I nodded in the direction of the Marines and wished them all a good night. I was pleasant but I was pissed. The hangar that is all locked up has one door facing the driveway which sported the addition of a “No Cameras Allowed” sign smack in the middle of the window. I took a brief moment to take a gander inside. It was all very presidential in there.
The long and the short of it is this: President Obama better be making some sort of golden speech tomorrow because he’s kept me from flying this week and more importantly, judging by the amount of work and people involved with the preparation for these proceedings, this is costing the taxpayers a big chunk of change and honestly, I can think of quite a few better things to do with the money right now.
On the bright side, there’s a really good chance that Air Force One is going to fly over the house tomorrow and you can bet your sweet bippy that I’m going to grab a photo of that.