I recently wrote about an American Airlines MD-80 that had it’s nose gear pulled out by a huge jet tug. That got me thinking about all the cool things and all the strange things you get to see at an airport. I’m going to try and recount some of these things in this post, they are in no particular order and some of the pictures are from the Internet.
One of the nicest rituals practiced at an airport are the fire engine salutes to pilots who are retiring. When the pilot taxis in for the final time the fire engines line the taxi way and shoot arcs of water over the taxi way which the pilot taxis through. I know for those of you who have not witnessed this it seems kind of strange but it really is cool.
This same thing was done recently in OAK for Alaska Airlines. The airline was phasing out the MD-80 and the last MD-80 flight out of OAK was saluted in the same way.
Although the next picture is not as dramatic it shows the sense of unity that work groups at SWA have. There was a Provisioning guy who either retired or was hurt and way from work, or just buried a loved one, or had just returned from Iraq,I can’t remember which. Anyway to show their co-worker that they were thinking of him the provo guys lined up their trucks and raised them as a salute.
Of course you get to see all kinds of cool airplanes while working at the airport. One of the first strange planes that I saw come into OAK was one of those huge Russian cargo planes. This one was not the six engined monster but rather it’s little brother with four engines. We went over to check it out and it was a tank. The thing I remember most about that plane was the tires. All the tires were bald and most of them had patches on them. This stuck in my head because we at SWA change tires when they first show patch so for me to see these bad tires was crazy.
We also get to see a lot of fighter jets doing fly bys and buzzing the field. One time during Fleet Week in the Bay Area a mechanic and I drove over to the old United/World hangar to check out the Blue Angels who were using the area to set up for the show. We drove our little pick-up over there and stayed a respectable distance from them as they set up. One of their mechanics strolled up to us and we figured he was going to tell us to leave. Instead he says that he noticed our truck had a tow hitch and would we mind towing a ground power unit over to one of the planes for him? HELL YEAH we will. That was pretty cool in a maintenance geek type of way.
On another day I was out in the remote parking area trying to start one of the piece of junk man lifts that we had back then. I had my back to the airport and was facing the bay. This tremendous roar swept over me and about 100 feet passing directly over me was a B-17. I think he got permission to do a low pass over the field, saw me up on this man lift with my back to him and decided to have some fun.
At night I have seem falling stars, satellites, and even the space shuttle as it passed over head. I have seem all kinds of birds and I’ve seem all kinds of birds that have been hit by the airplanes. We got called for a bird strike once and found a whole bird wrapped around the number two brake.
One of the coolest things I saw was when Delta Airlines brought home the body of a soldier killed in Iraq. The whole airport was silent. Normally there is constant radio chatter but they requested that no one make any calls as the plane taxied to the gate. The family was escorted to the plane by some military vehicles and watched their kid get unloaded and put into a Hearst. The family drove away and there must have been over a hundred guys on Harleys waiting at the gate who escorted the family home with American flags flying on their bikes, very emotional.
I’ll try to remember some more but a lot of these things happened before I got into the habit of taking pictures at work. These things are all the stuff that make working at an airport fun. Away from all the union things, job security issues, TSA garbage, its things like this that a guy in an office building some where down town will never get to experience.