The Hangar

By DEBORAH McFARLAND

My friend, Bob, at the Tom B. David Airport in Calhoun, Ga. (CZL), has been trying to explain to some folks in his town about the ambiance that can be found at the airport. Trying to describe the nuances of aviation to non-aviators can be a tricky business. In particular, Bob would like to differentiate between “a” hangar and “the” hangar.

According to Wikipedia, a hangar is “an enclosed structure to hold aircraft in protective storage. Most hangars are built of metal, but wood and concrete are other materials used. The word hangar comes from a northern French dialect, and means ‘cattle pen.'”A hangar, which typically houses aircraft and little else, often generates income.

“The” hangar is an enclosed structure specifically designed to protect and store dreams. Built of metal, wood, concrete and other materials, the foundation of this structure is freedom, reinforced with a good dose of adventure. The hangar typically houses an old airplane, memories of times past and hopes of flights yet to come. The hangar often generates pilots.

A hangar promotes uniformity. A single aircraft is located there. It’s an environment where dust bunnies fear to tread. No oil marks the floor where occupants long past once stood. No banners of fly-ins or first flights grace the walls. No chairs line its length encouraging visitors to sit and linger. No voices echo of heart-pounding tales. No thoroughly used parts cover workbenches with the expectation of continued usefulness.

The hangar promotes individuality. An old couch is standard operating equipment, but its style and color can reflect the fashion of any of the past decades. It need only be comfortable to serve its purpose. There is usually a refrigerated beverage unit that was once the pride of some mother’s kitchen, finding new life here in the service of thirsty aviators. Oil decorates the floor where an old Jacobs once held court. Props line the wall, holding untold stories ingrained in wood and metal.

Here, little boys dream of that first flight. Young men listen to old men tell of experiences that once seem daring and now seem precarious, and old men watch young men and wonder if their eyes ever held such fire. In some of these hangars, a new Amelia is born.

The hangar can nourish the body as well as the soul. An old grill is often pulled out on late Saturday afternoons. Camaraderie is shared along with some good regional cuisine. The day’s flight is recapped; good-natured ribbing is standard fare.

At times, they both can be havens. A pilot comes to “a” hangar to avoid the TSA; an aviator comes to “the” hangar to avoid his wife.

A hangar or a series of hangars is needed to supply owners with protective storage, thus generating operational capital for the airport. The hangar is needed to supply our youth with imaginings of what can be, thus producing the next generation of pilots who will use the airport. Both are integral parts of a thriving aviation community.

Does this help, Bob?

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.

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