Today was the first day of The Portland International Jetport 2011 Aviation Exposition. I only learned about the expo as I was flipping through a newspaper Thursday at a favorite local cafe. I probably would not have learned about it otherwise.
I knew the only planned aerial demonstration was a low pass by a B-2 Spirit. That didn’t excite me much. What I was most excited for was the KC-135R that was scheduled to be on static display. I was an avionics technician on Stratotankers for eleven years: four on active-duty and the remainder with the US Air Force Reserves. It’s the only airframe I worked on during my Air Force career, and I consider her to be “my plane.”
It was great to talk to the New Hampshire Air National Guard airmen who flew the tanker up from Portsmouth International Airport at Pease. A couple of them, upon seeing my KC-135R t-shirt and learning I am a former maintenance technician, encouraged me to consider enlisting in the Guard. I do miss the airplane and the travel. Hmmm…
I was an avionics technician on these tankers (GAC troop: guidance and control systems). Basically, any system involving a computer that neither transmitted nor received was mine. That included cockpit instruments, flight director, autopilot, fuel quantity indicating, inertial navigation, flight control augmentation, stability augmentation, etc.
For part of my career I was in a support shop called -21. It was our responsibility to install cargo rollers, cargo bins and VIP seating in the cargo bay for special missions. It was a good job without a lot of travel, which allowed me to take college classes and get my pilot’s license.
Changing the fan blades is a very detailed process. Each blade must be replaced in the same position, as they are perfectly balanced. Numbering the blades makes this job a lot easier.
I’ve spent countless hours standing fire guard while these tankers were refueled on the ground. Fuel truck after fuel truck…
I love the smell of US Air Force planes, and these C-21s are no different. They lack the smell of leather that you get in most other Lears. When I got out of active duty I went to work at Bombardier’s Learjet service center in Wichita, Kansas. These planes are small, but they’re sure sexy, and I love ’em.
I talked to a high school kid at this plane who told me all about the local flying club. He has 10.6 (he kept reminding me about the point-six) hours and has yet to solo. He pays for flying by working at Burger King. I have much respect.
The Bald Eagle Flying Club costs $750 to join and $75 each month whether or not you fly. As a member of the club you’re also part owner of this Cessna 172. The cost of flying per hour is $85, wet. To break even from what I’m paying now I’d have to fly four hours per month. Anything over that and I’d be saving considerably. Plus, it’d be cool to have airplane keys in my pocket. It’s certainly worth considering.