I’ve been planning our Grand Opening Party ever since our “soft” opening on Jan 10 and we’ve set a date for Saturday, February 11. An old friend, Paul, a retired United Captain, has volunteered his band and everything is going well. Well, sort of. Everything except the fact that we are a flight school without students.
Fortunately, flight instructors only get paid when they work, and even more fortunately, neither of my CFIs need this job to put food on the table or they sure would be getting hungry about now. I have one office staff, Anna, who saves me money by consistently arriving late and needing to leave early. Her specialty is talking on her cell phone . . . constantly. One might think I’d prefer accounting skills or marketing experience, but she has something even better – long wavy hair, a big smile (shameless pandering to the males of aviation, I admit), and boundless energy! She KNOWS this fledgling business is going to be a HUGE SUCCESS! I desperately need her enthusiasm right now, as the lack of customers is making me very nervous.
Another rather significant problem has surfaced with one of the aviation experts that I’d gathered as my guides and guardian angels. This one has become a devil of a problem. Apparently he has developed an unsavory reputation far and wide, and virtually no-one at the airport wants anything to do with him. Equally unfortunate is the fact that it is his C-152 and C-172 that I had planned to leaseback for instruction and rentals. Since my knowledge of aircraft consists of what I learned in 6 months of flight training (I can accurately identify sophisticated details like low wing vs. high wing and tricycle gear vs. tailwheel), I planned to rely on him heavily for the care and maintenance of the aircraft, but it is clear that his mere presence will scare all business away. How can someone leave such a wake of turbulence behind him? And how could I not have known? In hindsight, I guess I chose not to notice that he was “slow and dirty” because I needed things to work with him. After all, having aircraft is kind of a critical element of a flight school . . . but this relationship is going south, in a Cessna you might say, and fast! Threats have been made, and outlandish charges levied, and I soon make it clear to my staff that he is not allowed to cross the threshold. Period. Call the police if he tries to enter.
Unfortunately, his C-152 is still parked out front of my hangar. I’m not using it, but he’s not moving it – he undoubtedly doesn’t want to pay the tie down fee on the transient ramp. It sits there, and I figure it’s not my problem. That is, until a nasty windstorm kicks up one night.
I wake up around midnight to hear the winds howling as the trees bend and creak. With a thud, a tree falls in the distance. I am tense and stressed as I wonder if the gale force winds are enough to flip an airplane, because, darn it, his 152 isn’t tied down.
“He left it there,” one sleepy devil argues, “it’s not your problem!”
“Look at all the problems you’ve had with him already,” my groggy angel responds. “Do you want insurance issues and lawsuits and whatever other trouble he’ll kick up if something happens?”
“I’m not going to drive out to the airport in the middle of the night to tie down his airplane! If something happens, that’s his problem! Plus, it sure is warm here in bed”
“How are you going to feel if you show up tomorrow and see it flipped on its side? The airport buzz lines will be alive with the news that that dumb girl doesn’t even know how to tie down an airplane . . . .”
“It sure is warm here . . . .”
“Yeah, but you can’t sleep, wound tight as a rubberband airplane. You might as well go deal with this”
“So warm here, so cold there . . . .”
After about 45 minutes of internal debate, I nudge my husband, “Honey, what would you think about going out to the airport to tie down that airplane?” Although those are probably not the words husbands most like to hear from their wives in bed, he takes it in good humor. He listens to my arguments and concerns in sleep-stunned silence then gets dressed and heads to the garage to find stakes and ropes. We drive the 15 minutes to the airport with winds rocking our car and tree debris littering the roads. I am relieved to see the little 152 still holding her own. With the wind wildly whipping my hair, I hold the flashlight while my dear husband pounds stakes into the dirt. I watch each ferocious gust quiver the 152’s wings and am happy to finally tie her down and head home.
The next day I leave a message saying the airplane needs to be moved, and now! Later that week, I am in early (arrive early, stay late being pretty much the daily routine) when the 152 owner skulks around the corner. He rushes to the aircraft to avoid me (no preflight fuel or oil check), starts it up, and moments later I see him take off. I’m left shaking my head but glad to see the tail of him.
However, I now have a dual problem: No Students and No Airplanes. It doesn’t require advanced mental powers to realize I am two ingredients short of a flight school recipe, but the Grand Opening Party must go on! If all efforts fail, I figure I might as well go out with a bang. So, I put a smile and some dancing shoes on and buy a lot of booze (after all, no worries about anyone flying anything) and gos out to celebrate in style in the big empty hangar.