Sunday, March 28, 2010

A tale of two hangars

I know it's been a while since I've posted on the ole blog, so it's time now to explain where I've been. I believe I did mention a few weeks ago that I was going to be moving to a new hangar, and that has now been accomplished. Here now is the story of the hangars.

For the last year or two, I've been in a hangar that I was subleasing. I lucked into this hangar when the fellow who had it, whom I'll call Albus, moved out of state. Albus thought, however, that he might be moving back in a couple of years' time, and he didn't want to give up the hangar only to then wish that he hadn't. We were introduced via a sort of friend-of-a-friend arrangement, and came to an agreement whereby I occupied the hangar and paid the rent to Albus, who in turn paid the airport. Part of the agreement was that if Albus did find himself returning, he would be able to occupy the hangar again. As I was already on the waiting list for a hangar, I hoped that my name would come up before Albus decided to move back to California.

The so-called friend-of-a-friend arrangement needs a bit of clarification: I know a guy we'll call Ron. Ron's father, Arthur, knows Albus. I now know Arthur as well, but at the time this all started we'd only met once in passing.

Anyway, this past summer, my name did make it to the top of the waiting list, and I got a phone call from the airport manager. I'll call him Severus. Severus offered me a recently-vacated hangar at the other end of the airport, less than half a mile away. In turn, I called Albus to let him know and asked him what he wanted to do about his hangar. Albus told me that he had decided that he was going to remain in his new abode, and had no desire to retain the California hangar once I was done with it. With this information, I inquired of Severus whether it would be possible for Albus to relinquish his hangar and for me to have it instead of the one being offered (since I was at the top of the hangar list anyway.) This would save me the aggravation of moving, and it would let Severus offer the hangar he'd offered to me to the next person on the hangar list - thus getting two names off the waiting list. Severus said no, because he said that he couldn't offer a hangar to a new tenant until it was vacant and he had inspected it. He did happen to mention that tenants could trade hangars, and so I inquired how that process works. His reply was that if tenants wished to trade hangars, he would have to inspect each hangar to verify that there was an airplane in each that was appropriately registered to the respective parties. Since Albus' airplane was by now several thousand miles away, that option was out. Really liking the hangar I was in, and dreading the thought of moving, I tried offering Severus a variation: He could call the next person on the waiting list, and show them both hangars. If they wanted the one he was offering me, we'd "trade" and they could have it now. If they wanted the one I was currently in, they could have it once I moved out , say next month. As you may surmise, I was hoping that they would take the already-empty hangar, letting me stay where I was. But no, Severus would have none of it.

And so, with Albus' concurrence, I stayed put in the hangar I was subbing from him. In the midst of this drama, I bemoaned the silliness of the whole thing to one of the airport friends who helped Albus and me get together in the first place. He offered to sublease my new hangar for parts storage (he runs a small shop on the airport.) So, I also took the hangar Severus offered, and subbed it out to Ron.

BEFORE: old hangar

Now we jump forward to this past February. I'm still in Albus' hangar, and Ron is in mine. The airport is a recipient of some of the stimulus dollars that we heard about last year, and so is repaving the entire ramp complex - essentially everything except the runways and taxiways. The work is being done in four phases, one for each quadrant of the airport. The first quadrant is late, but well under way, with completion originally expected around the first of February, but now looking like the end of March. The next phase of the project will encompass the quadrant that includes both of the hangars involved in this tale. Once the work starts, access to the hangars will be restricted to non-working hours, and getting an airplane in or out will be extremely difficult, and at times impossible. Ron has arranged to send his parts inventory to auction, and so expects to be out of my hangar by the end of the month. Ron's hired help, Crabbe, has hinted that he may know someone (Goyle) who might want to sub out my hangar; Arthur, Ron's father, similarly has a possible prospective sub. The spoiler, as you might expect, is Severus, who has announced that he will conduct a hangar inspection sometime later this spring or summer. One of the things he inspects for is the proper airplane in the proper hangar, as subleasing is not allowed under the hangar lease agreements. This is what I've been fearing the entire time that I've been subbing from Albus, since if my plane is found in Albus' hangar, not only would I get thrown out, he would too. Of course, it made no difference to him anymore, but all the same, I felt it was time to clean this mess up.

BEFORE: the new hangar

And so, Ron having cleared out of my hangar, I went to see Severus one more time. I knew I couldn't show him Albus' airplane in his hangar and my airplane in mine, but what if I could show him both hangars completely empty - Then could we trade? I even thought I knew how I could make it happen, since I happened to know that Ron also had access to another recently-emptied hangar, belonging to the late Sirius. It would mean I'd have to move twice, but it would perhaps be worth it. Alternatively, yet another recent (and unfortunate) passage had caused another hangar to be cleaned out, this one right across the alley from Albus' hangar; maybe I could trade into that one - the move would certainly be a whole lot easier. But, for all my attempts at maneuvering, Severus stood firm. The best I could get was a suggestion that I put my name back on the hangar list for a shot at a different hangar; the last wait was only three years. By this time, of course, there was no question what had been going on with Albus' hangar, and I knew that Severus knew that I knew that he knew it. (!) This was the one area where Severus had cut me some slack, as it was apparent that what hangar my plane was occupying was not news to him, despite my attempts to keep a low profile (outside of my failed efforts at negotiating, that is.) As long as he'd been able to maintain some sort of plausible deniability, my sublease charade had been ignored. But now the jig was up; it was time to move.

Thus, I informed Albus that I would be out of his hangar by the end of the month, which by this time was March. When I shared this with Severus, he mentioned that Albus' rent would be prorated to the actual date that the hangar was vacated. That little fact gave me some added impetus to get the job done sooner rather than later, especially since I knew I would be out of town for most of the last third of the month.

The big stuff is easy; it's the little stuff that'll get ya. Put another way, the last ten percent is the hardest and the longest. I lost count, but I must have made at least a dozen round trips shuttling back and forth. Every time I'd think I was nearly done, I'd realize that I had neglected to notice some pile of something or other. Unlike the recent house move, this one was completely solo - no hired help at each end to move things along. And it's the ends that matter (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: The ends justify the means - but that's not what I meant!): There's just as much work to move a thousand feet as a thousand miles.

Here's a better look at the problem: The old hangar, sans Baron; too much stuff!
This is when it doesn't pay to be a packrat!

The whole job covered the span of ten days, with most of the actual moving concentrated in the first two days and last two. On the last day, I happened to encounter Severus in the local Subway sandwich place, and told him that I would be completely out later that afternoon. I later sent him and Albus a picture of the newly-emptied hangar, which was about as good a notice as I could think of:
AFTER: the old hangar

That's pretty much the story. So far, anyway. After all the wrangling, the new hangar (my hangar) is a mixed bag. I'm in it legitimately, which is good for the peace of mind. It's right next to the street, which isn't. And it's noisy, although it must sound crazy for someone on an airport to be complaining about street noise. It's right next to the restrooms, which is handy, but which also means that there will be a lot more people walking by who will want to stop and chat and see what's going on (for some people, that would be a plus; I'm not one of those people.) The best thing though is that I can put the Baron in this hangar by myself using just the Robotow battery-operated towbar; the other hangar required the use of either the tug or the truck - a nerve-wracking experience every time, thanks to the minimal wingtip clearance. Another plus for this hangar: the door appears to be maybe a foot wider. Too bad I won't get to use it for the next few months!

AFTER: the new hangar

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bring your child to work day

This entry started out to be just a comment in reply to a reader's comment, but once I got started, it seemed like it had expanded beyond that point. For those who have not already heard about this story, a brief synopsis:
A controller in New York apparently brought his kids to work and let them make transmissions giving control instructions to pilots.
Story links: NPR news blog
Times Online

But seriously, folks - I do not believe that the flying public was endangered in this instance, and I'll tell you why: As an ATC instructor, I have regularly had someone plugged in with me and talking to airplanes who has never done it before; we call in on-the-job training. Particularly in the trainee's early days, much of their instruction is in the form of what we call "parroting." This is when the instructor tells the trainee what to say, and the student then transmits the instruction to the pilots. An example would be "American 266, runway 25 right, cleared for takeoff." As the trainee progresses, the instructor does less of this; instead of feeding the student the exact words of the instruction, the instructor simply tells the student what they need to do, and the student formulates and then transmits the control instruction. Example: The instructor says "Clear American," and the trainee transmits "American 266, runway 25 right, cleared for takeoff." This process continues, with the instructor gradually transitioning through less and less specific direction as the student becomes more and more self-sufficient.

The entire time that this takes place, the instructor is plugged in right beside the student. As the instructor, my microphone has override capability, meaning that if both of us key up to talk, my microphone will cut out the student's mic, and the pilot will hear my instructions. As a trainee, one of your goals is to progress to the point that the instructor doesn't have to do this - and you know it's going to be a rough debrief session if he does.

There is no question of safety being impaired, and the operations proceed normally. The key to the whole thing is that I have the ability to override any transmission if the need arose. I expect that the fellow in New York did as well. Thus, I don't feel that public safety was endangered. I will concede that putting a younger child on the radio might give cause for questioning the soundness of the controller's judgement in this instance. Listening to some of the clips, it's clear that to me that the pilots could tell what was happening, and were in the spirit of the thing. What it comes down to is that many controllers like their jobs, and just like anyone else, we enjoy sharing what we like with other people who have an interest. Maybe he should start a blog . . .

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Dear Readers:

Your faithful scribe begs your indulgence while this blog takes a short hiatus. This has been occasioned by the need to move the Baron to its new home at the other end of the airport. Come to think of it, moving the Baron won't be that bad - it's moving all the other stuff in the hangar that's going to be a chore (and it's supposed to rain yet again during my weekend!)

In the interim, feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Suggested topics:
  • What is the sound of one hand clapping?
  • Why are Girl Scouts selling cookies, and not brownies?
  • How is it that I can mow the yard in the morning, and by lunch time the dandelions already have flowers again?