Christian: n,

A person who believes in Jesus Christ, God incarnate who came to Earth and became flesh to die on the cross, sinless for our redemption.

libertarian: n,

"A person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim."

-- L. Neil Smith

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ramp Rats

Yep, that was me for too many years. One of the worst jobs you'll ever love. There are aspects which are tediously day to day, but I certainly wouldn't call being a line service technician monotonous. It beats working in a cubicle.

What a long, strange trip it's been:

My first job playing with planes was as a member of the United States Air Farce. I was a 43152 KC-135A crew chief. I was stationed at Travis AFB and my plane, still flying as of this posting, was 62-3551. I wasn't really suited for the military. The Strategic Air Command frowned on the type of cigarettes I preferred at the time and politely asked that I leave after a year and eight months.

Next I was an aircraft mechanic at Hayes International Corporation in B'ham AL, where we took C-130s, C-135s, and F-4s apart, looked at all the parts, then tried to reassemble them correctly. I made good money there, but the union mentality of delaying contracts to suck overtime from the taxpayers, sitting on a maintenance stand all day to buck five rivets didn't sit well with me. One day, while discussing hog prices, sports scores, and what I could have been if I hadn't gotten stuck here... (most of the employees were old ex-farmers and such), I decided I'd had too much... and I moved on.

Several years of doing this, that and the other went by and I found myself in Ft Lauderdale FL working as a baggage mishandler, and then as a fueler, driving one of a fleet of twenty 8,000 to 10,000 gallon Kenworth Darts and pumping fuel into airliners.

I'm five foot six, and at the time, weighted 120 lbs soaking wet. The fuel hoses weighed more than me, and there were two on every truck that had to be attached to the bottom of the wings, over my head. The big guys would pull out both at the same time. I did 'em one at a time and it was killing me. I moved to Dallas TX at the bequest of my mom, who said there were tons of aviation jobs out there. One thing I knew was that I didn't want to be fueling planes ever again.

I decided it was time to clean up my act a bit. It was the move to Dallas that finally got me to quit smoking pot, with the exception of a couple of "special moments" where the universe lined up just right...

So, my next job was a night job. I'd show up at DFW at about 9:PM and wax, yes, WAX... Braniff B-727s until 5:AM.

As much as I didn't like fueling planes, waxing them at night for $5.50 an hour was worse. I saw an ad in the paper, (a thing we used to read before the Internet), for an aircraft refueler at Addison Airport. I went. The airport was smaller than I imagined. The facility was called Pumpkin Air. I talked to the manager, a really nice guy named Dan New. We hit it off, and started the grand tour. We walked out on the the ramp. (don't say tarmac unless you're in a movie or on the news) It was a postage stamp sized area relatively speaking with enough room for about a dozen C-172s or one Gulfstream II. Dan proudly gestured toward the south edge of the ramp and said, "...and these are our fuel trucks." There were two - a 3,000 gallon jet truck and a 2,000 gallon avgas truck. The hoses appeared small and light weight. I thought, maybe I could give fueling another shot. Those were fun times. I was fortunate to have Bill Delay as my supervisor. He was really into the job and an excellent teacher. My attitude and knowledge of the business would not have been the same if not for his knowledge and enthusiasm. I met one of my best friends there, Mark Prock. Mark! Where the Hell are you these days? I decided that my professional goal in life would be to manage an FBO (Fixed Base Operation: the name given to aviation businesses that were stationary during the barnstorming era, when a lot of them were somewhat nomadic.) I realized from visiting other FBOs that each had its own way of doing certain things. It didn't matter if it was the best, easiest, safest, most efficient or even correct way, the line service motto is

"This is the way we've always done it."

So, I got the idea that I should gather knowledge from various FBOs. Learn the best, easiest, safest, most efficient and correct ways, and use that to improve my worth. Dallas was a great place for that because of the large concentration of airports in the area. In the next few years I worked for Million Aire ADS, Servion DAL, (where I actually was the manager up until it was bought by a competitor who also bought Servion at RBD) I transferred there and stayed for a while. There was Associated Air Center DAL and Colms Gates DAL, and the miserable time at DalJet DAL... Then I worked for a tiny flight school called Air Lease at Grand Prairie F67, the busiest uncontrolled airport in the US. I went to work one morning and there were chains, locks and legal notices on the doors. So, I went back to Redbird to work for some gentlemen who had recently bought Servion. It would get bought and sold a few more times. I think it was more of a tax shelter than a working FBO. I met another good friend, Ron Manning, there.

During all this time I got married and we had a son, Sam Morton. We bought a house out in Palmer TX, and.....

Turn the Page: Divorce causes a lot of changes.

Turn the Page: At this time in history people were discovering the Internet. AOL allowed us to find and type to people all over the place. I was in a Parrothead chat room and struck up a conversation with "Limelover." To make a long story short and keep on the path... Limelover was Liz. She was in Oregon. I moved to Oregon and yes, I held a line service job for a while there at Medford. Liz and I got married, moved to Florida and Fletcher was born.

I worked at Piedmont Hawthorne F45, Galaxy Aviation SUA, and then settled down at the Stuart Jet Center SUA and sojourned there many seasons. I was getting old, tired, grumpy and libertarian and walked away from the ramp, almost for good. I thought I'd give it one more shot and I worked for Landmark Aviation F45 a short while before finally hanging up my Micky Mouse ears for good.

Line service had changed a lot from what it was when I started. Corporate bureaucracy did what it does best. It took something, and made it suck.

I have a pretty good gig right now thanks to Liz and Fletcher. I'm thankful and blessed to have them.

Part II: What does a line service technician do? may be coming soon... or not.