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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Wischful Thinking
Courtesy Cars

by Jay Wischkaemper

I’m not sure where the FAR is, but there’s bound to be one. I’m not the sort of person who is going to sit down and read all those things, so I’ll probably never find it, but I’m sure it’s there. There has to be some anal-retentive person who knows where it is. In case some of you run across it, you might let me know which one it is. It will be the one that says that all new airports must be built five miles east of town. How do I know it’s a rule? Just find one airport that has been built in the last 30 years that hasn’t been built five miles east of town. They don’t exist. I think this rule must have superceded the rule in place during World War II that stated that all military training bases had to be built two miles west of town.

Lest you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll give you the examples. Airports built in this area of Texas in the last 30 years: Shamrock, Wheeler, Mclean, and Muleshoe. All of them five miles east of town. Old WWII training fields now used as municipal airports: Dalhart, Childress, Sweetwater. All of them two miles west of town. There has to be a rule.

Now I don’t have a problem with a town building an airport wherever the rule says they’re supposed to build it, but it seems obvious to me from the location of many of these facilities that the city fathers were much more concerned with the safety of the populace than with the convenience of the flying public. Not only do they stick the airport in the middle of nowhere, but facilities other than a runway are usually minimal, if they exist at all. Rest room facilities frequently consist of going behind the one hangar that the doctor built to house his Bonanza before deciding he couldn’t make a living in that town and left. Of course, as isolated as some of them are, one wouldn’t even need to bother going behind the hangar unless they afraid of the buzzards seeing them.

I suppose that the community leaders figured that the only people who would ever use the airport would be cousin Joe flying in to see uncle Bob, and that uncle Bob would come and pick him up wherever the airport was. Actually, what they really figured was that there was this here government money available to build an airport, and we ought to have us one of those things, regardless of whether it’s usable, because if we don’t get that government money, somebody else will.

Which brings me around to another subject at hand. The courtesy car. Naturally, none of the above-mentioned airports ever has one. The same city fathers that planned the location of the airport never bothered to think about transportation, even though no cab service or car rental facilities are available. Every town probably has some old worn out police car that they sell for practically nothing that could easily be placed at the airport to provide transportation, but most city fathers would never think of such a thing. I’m wondering if we as pilots don’t need to do an education job on our government officials, sort of a junket, to let them know about the world of courtesy cars. You see, I’m wondering if some city officials aren’t embarrassed to put some old junker out there. Maybe they think that it would be a reflection on the community. They obviously don’t understand courtesy cars. If they could just ride around with us and ride in a few courtesy cars, they would understand that there is nothing too junky to be a courtesy car.

One of my first experiences with courtesy cars was several years ago at Plainview, Texas. No reflection here on Miller Flying Service, because I was proud to get anything, but as we taxied in, we noticed an old car sitting in front of the FBO that it appeared would barely run, and were laughing about the fact that it was probably the loaner. Turned out the joke was on us. It was.

In my travels, I’ve found that often, the availability of a courtesy car is directly proportional to the amount of oil or natural gas in the area surrounding the airport. Normally, oil towns will provide one, probably because they have more people flying in. One of the places I visit fairly frequently that fits into that category is Canadian, Texas. Lots of natural gas up there, and a very nice airport. When I first started flying to Canadian, they had an old car, provided by one of the banks, that fit the image of a courtesy car completely. It was a Ford LTD, probably about a 1968 model, with dents all over and a cracked windshield. The perfect image. People in the community could always detect it by the blue cloud of smoke that followed it. When you were through using it, you took it to the station and said, “Fill it up with oil and check the gas.” But it ran, and I was thankful to have it. One day, my son had gone with me and we were driving ‘old red’ south of town on highway 83. Jeff was about eight at the time. As we rattled along, smoke cloud billowing, looking like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies, he looked over at me and said, “Daddy, the next time we go flying, can we go into an international airport?” “Why do you want to do that?” I asked. “So we can get a Hertz Rent a car,” was the reply.

Texas native Jay Wischkaemper is a successful MassMutual life insurance agent based in Lubbock, Texas. He is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for both business and pleasure. Jay is a Texas Tech alumni, where he earned a degree in public address and group communication.
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