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The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. IFA, nor any related parties to IFA, assume any responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information provided in these articles. It is suggested that you consult your own aircraft manuals and aircraft mechanic for any maintenance on your aircraft. You are proceeding at your own risk.

"As the Hangar Door Shuts" Blog – by Brooks Margolien, May 9, 2013

Give Up on a Fishing Trip Over a Nose Gear Down Switch?

fishing photo

Time to spare, go by air! I've said it a thousand times to pilots and passengers over my career. Rain outs, low IFR, icing, fouled spark plugs, bad voltage regulator, giant headwinds - I've seen and lived them all. I’ve also seen the smiles on people’s faces and gotten the pat on the back when I marched out my parts room with an alternator, or found the broken wire and got people on their way. But it took 35 years of flying commercially until I was stranded in an airport terminal, my own home commercial airport, Logan Airport in BOS.

I have flown to Florida many times in private aircraft from a 172 through a Cessna Citation. It's amazing, who gets tired of an aerial view? The sights, even the smells. I'll never forget approaching Savannah, GA at night in a 172. You could smell the wood pulp (I wonder if the smells are the same now?). When I started on my license that year, it was pretty simple to find your location at night. The outline of the lights really looked like the outline on the sectional. I think it’s different now.

But last Friday night, things were different alright. Things were way different. It’s taken me 10 years to repeat a fishing trip to Florida with one of best friends for some sport fishing. The last time I went for a few days in Punta Gorda, I came home to my pregnant wife and child with the flu, while I had the sun tan and the stories. Meanwhile, Jim got married, had his own boy, and it just took a decade until we got down to it.

One thing that’s different is the price of an airline ticket to Florida. BOS-MIA non-stop is at least $800!! I think Kim Kardashian’s reality show shot in Miami has upset the air travel balance. I have never spent that much to go to England. Wow. So our search led me to Spirit Airways, BOS-FLL, CHEAP. I wanted to give Spirit a go since last October’s Hurricane in Florida, when they got my pal home many hours after I got the text from Jet Blue saying my flight was cancelled. I got that text as I was loading my suitcase into the cab on my way to the airport. I was in Florida last October when the hurricane came. I was the first one to move my ticket up and I still got stranded.

Anyhow, it’s last Friday afternoon. I’m at Logan with plenty of time to spare for my Spirit 5:40 pm departure when I head up to check in I find out the plane is late arriving from Chicago so we will be departing three hours late. I have two cellphones on me and I don’t know the flight is late? See, I have stopped using them when I drive. But, hey, I can handle three hours. And then that turned into four. We walked to Jet Blue and almost spent $800 to leave at 7:30 that night, but chickened out. Back to Spirit to wait.

8,9,10 pm, tired of watching Flight Aware, batteries running low. Finally our plane arrives from Chicago, but guess what? It’s broken! Needs a nose gear part, or so they said, but I was thinking this is a duty time call all the way. Now we really are second guessing ourselves for not taking the Jet Blue flight. Meanwhile, Spirit tells the crowd the mechanics are looking around for a part. Of course this sounds normal to me. All of the local mechanics call each other looking for parts, especially on Fridays. The crowd had other thoughts. I was waiting for TSA to show and cuff somebody, it was that bad.

When the Massachusetts State Police showed up, all of the sudden everyone cooled down. Now it’s 11, 11:30, flight not cancelled, people want rooms, or at least a good lie from a guy in a blazer. At this moment I know why my customers fly to FLA at 120 kts, or even less with a headwind, or why a guy spends $30k on a charter. Nobody likes a headwind, but at least you know what you’re facing (a headwind?). Trapped in an airline terminal without a headrest or place to recline properly is worse than driving. It’s worse than anything, really. Still, I could not stomach the thought of driving home and abandoning the trip.

Finally around midnight, a pilot hits the podium and declares we are going to fly! A second Spirit flight showed up and we’re taking that plane to FLL. Nobody believed it, but we all marched to another gate at 12:30, boarded at 12:45 and departed. I didn’t think I slept a wink, but my sleeping leg said otherwise. I mean the whole darn thing! I had to pick it up to get feeling back.

Landed at 4:45 am, got the rental car. By the way, Dollar Rental has the best spot at the FLL rental car building, which is a beautiful building with gorgeous terrazzo floors like you find in the those old Florida ranch houses. Dollar is next to the bathrooms and their cars are right out the door in the garage. Took the Dodge Avenger - anyone remember the “Office” episode when Steve Carell holds out for an Avenger?

Hit a Starbucks at opening at 6 am in Miami, packed a lunch, hit the dock and after a slow start hooked the fish of a lifetime, or so I thought ‘till my pal hooked its grandfather the next day. By the way, the sport fishing right in Key Biscayne is fantastic, find www.captainjoegonzalez.com.

Give up on a fishing trip over a nose gear down switch? Never. I have to say I think more of Spirit Airways now, even though they left us hanging for several hours, they got us down there, a little late, but they made one of my best weekends ever happen.

Flew back to Manchester on Sunday night, then a Baron ride to work on Monday morning. Have to say, I love airplanes. They can be frustrating too, but after all, they defy gravity!

Brooks Margolien is president and chief technician of Aero Care, Inc., a state-of-the-art piston engine aircraft (13’6” H by 50’ W door opening) maintenance shop in Orange, MA. Brooks has been an aircraft mechanic for over 23 years. You can reach Brooks directly at aerocare.aero@gmail.com.