The reason for people in the aviation community to have such a strong sense of community and brotherhood stems to the early days of aviation. Quite honestly, being a pilot at the dawn of aviation was risking your life in a very real way. Airplanes and other flying machines were new and suffered all the issues anything new suffers. As safe as aviation is today, mistakes flying an airplane, or the wrong breakdown can and will kill you.
As a result, pilots and aviation professionals will jump to another pilot’s aid without reservation. I have several real-life stories that illustrate this aid.
Remember the aircraft that crashed on Iron Springs Road a few months back? After the plane was down and below the radar coverage in the area, several aircraft that were also in flight at the time assisted the control tower at the airport with locating the downed aircraft to get emergency services to the scene as quickly as possible.
That accident was a high-profile incident. But help and support happens every day in the aviation community.
My company is Leighnor Aircraft and we rent airplanes and help facilitate flight instruction. We had a rental flight over the Thanksgiving holiday go all the way east to Indiana. That flight is a very long-distance flight in a small aircraft.
The flight to Indiana went off without incident. On the return trip, while overnighting at Mt. Vernon, Illinois, a wind storm damaged the aircraft. The pilot was more than a thousand miles from home, with a damaged rental aircraft.
Several people at Mt. Vernon really stepped up and helped make a very bad situation a whole lot better.
Let’s start with the airport director at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport, Christopher Collins. He let the rental pilot stay in the terminal overnight without charge and use the facilities at the airport while we were determining how quickly the aircraft could be repaired.
Going even further above and beyond, when it was determined that the repair would take some time and that the rental pilot needed to get back home, Collins drove the rental pilot from Mt. Vernon, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri to catch an airline flight home. That trip is an hour and half each direction!
The next issue that needed to be resolved was the repair of the aircraft. The damage was major in that a part of the aircraft’s wing was damaged in the wind and needed to be replaced. My mechanics located a part and were able to ship it to SRT Aviation, which is a fixed base operator (aircraft fuel and repair services) located on the airport at Mt. Vernon.
In speaking with the maintenance director at SRT Aviation, Shawn Sayle, I learned the mechanics there were very busy. However, he was able to work our aircraft into the shop to evaluate the damage. In consultation with my mechanics, they had a plan in place to repair the plane once the replacement part arrived.
To put this situation in perspective, imagine your car in a shop you are unfamiliar with, more than a thousand miles away from home and your only communication is telephone and email. Many of us wouldn’t expect that situation to work out too well or affordably.
SRT Aviation received the replacement part, took off the damaged part and installed the replacement. Three hours of shop labor later, the repair was done and the repair bill totaled $225.
Furthermore, if an aircraft is stored inside a hangar or even parked at an airport, there is usually a charge for parking. In this case, we did not get charged for use of the hangar or parking.
With the aircraft was repaired, it was then time to get her back home. My rental pilot, needing hours for a piloting job, volunteered to go back and fly home. Collins, the airport manager, again drove to St. Louis to pick our pilot up and drive him back to Mt. Vernon.
For those in the aviation community, if you’re flying in the area of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, there are some good people at the Mt. Vernon Outland Airport. It’s worth your time to stop by and use the service there if you need it. We can attest, several people and organizations bent over backwards to help a fellow pilot in an unfortunate situation. QCBN
By Lance Leighnor