Decisions, decisions

“Another five minutes and I am going to shut us down!” my copilot declared in frustration as we sat at the hold short line of Alpha Nine, waiting our turn to take off from King County International/Boeing Field (BFI).

It was a late afternoon in August. We had the windows and the vents open and still we were sweating profusely. The runup was done. Checklists were stowed. We were ready to go. We had been waiting 30 minutes. We were not the only ones. A Maule was off to our left. A pair of Caravans from a local airline squatted behind us like impatient bulldogs. Three more Cessnas, ranging from a 152 to a 206 were off to the right. And further down the taxiway was a Hawker jet.

“I have never seen it this busy,” I remarked.

“It was worse this morning,” my copilot said, then he added, “You’d think they’d want to do all of this at night when there is less traffic.”

“All of this” was a repaving project to repair the damage done by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The temblor, which had a magnitude of 6.8, split the runway down the middle and opened up holes large enough to swallow cars. Quick, temporary repairs were made within weeks. The long-term repairs were done last month.

In addition to moving airplanes, the controllers in the tower had to keep an eye on a small army of workers and trucks. Sometimes the ground-pounders had to wait for us to get out of the way. Now we were waiting for them.

I cast a wary look at the aircraft behind us and agreed with my copilot, then just as quickly dismissed the thought, realizing that I was seeing what was considered the best option by the Powers That Be who make the decisions.

Some decisions just aren’t popular to outsiders. For example, we recently received an email from a reader in Texas who was upset with the Air Force’s decision to destroy 110 T-3 aircraft that had been in storage since 1997 at Hondo Municipal Airport (HDO). The planes were grounded when the Air Force decided not to continue to use them for flight training. The reader complained that no efforts were made to salvage anything from the aircraft, such as instruments, engines or props. He further claimed that the destruction was being done behind fences and reporters were being kept away as if the Air Force were trying to hide it.

Not quite, said Capt. Gideon McClure from the Air Force’s public affairs department in San Antonio.

“We put out a press release on Sept. 8 talking about the process,” he said, noting the aircraft were removed from their training mission because of “uncommanded engine stoppages.”

When asked why the aircraft were not sold at auction or parted out, he said that the Air Force had considered that option, then decided the most cost-effective approach would be to hire a company to destroy the aircraft.

I seem to recall reading that the same thing was said about surplus aircraft at the end of World War II. Back then they were scrapped and pushed into piles and buried like trash. Now they cost more than a three-bedroom home in a major metropolitan area.

I can’t help but wonder if future generations will treat the T-3 with the same reverence my generation treats the BT-13, due in part to the fact there are so few of them left.

We’ll see.

Staff reporter Meg Godlewski also is a Master CFI.

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