In celebration of lunch at the airport

To be honest, I am not particularly fond of participating in business lunches. My method is to either work, or eat, but not to do both simultaneously. But even I can violate a personal rule now and then. So I convinced myself that the no-working-lunch thing was more of a guideline than a rule, and I plunged ahead with reckless abandon. I ordered a club sandwich, with turkey and bacon. My lunch partners went with a pressed Cuban and some kind of salad that was so wildly exotic that it held more fresh vegetation than the produce section of my local supermarket.

What ever happened to the board room, or the back room, or at least a dingy office with a file cabinet, a squeaky chair, a lopsided desk, and a surly receptionist tucked into the foyer? Oh well, I guess you meet wherever you can meet. And why not? The time and place isn’t what the meeting is about – it’s the ideas that pass through the space between the participants that really matters. And at least in this latest case, the result was positive for all concerned.

It’s hard to believe that a real change can occur because of the power of a good sandwich and a casual conversation — but that’s exactly what can happen if you apply yourself. The airport restaurant is my favorite place to meet and chat — although I will readily admit that I generally limit myself to a large coffee, since it’s mega-dose of caffeine lends a certain intensity to my already enthusiastic embrace of the airport as the center of my existence. Besides, nobody needs to hear my list of reasons why my home airport is the best place in the world to relocate to, while I have a mouthful of egg salad. That would be impolite, borderline disgusting, and undeniably counterproductive. A man needs to know his limits.

Lunch is not a limitation, as it turns out. Neither is breakfast, a mid-day snack, or an early dinner. If you have the chance to sit across a table from a potentially interested airport user or tenant, let me heartily endorse the airport restaurant as a great place to have that conversation. Whether your airport boasts a high-end gourmet restaurant, or a vending machine nestled between a Mr. Coffee dispenser and a roll-away tool box — nothing sells the idea of your airport’s charms like an hour or two on the field, in person. Marketing is marketing. There’s nobody better for the job than you, trust me.

As an added bonus, and a truly lasting conversation starter,  you never know who you might meet, or who might brush past you in the FBO. Even here in little ‘ol Winter Haven we have had the likes of John Travolta, Elizabeth Taylor, and Harrison Ford saunter past the counter on their way from the ramp to the parking lot. Who knows what regal personalities might grace your field one day — or how much of a hand you might have in making that event come to pass?

And to think, it might all start with something as simple as a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, and a casual chat.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at

First: Ask the right question

When I was a relatively young instructor I had the good fortune to call a small uncontrolled airport in central Connecticut my home base. Meriden Markham may not make the annals of aviation as a hotbed of technical achievement, innovative design, or the home of a manufacturing marvel, but I learned more about teaching, and business management, and the importance of successfully marketing a service during my time flying for Meriden Aviation than I have at any other flying job.

Part of that education was happenstance. It was nothing more complicated than good luck that brought me to work for a chief pilot named Frank Gallagher. It was Frank who taught me the valuable lesson that a well-planned cooperative effort can have far more powerful results than a Herculean individual attempt. I’m not entirely sure that was his intent, but that was the lesson I took away from my time in Meriden. Working together to achieve a clearly understandable common goal works. It’s just that simple.

As unusual as it may seem, my first assignment as an instructor at Meriden involved a file cabinet and a phone. There was no airplane involved. Frank simply pointed me, and another new-hire instructor, to a file cabinet full of student records and assigned us to select the students who had stopped flying, but had not earned their ratings or certificates. With that pile of files on our desks, we started making phone calls. [Read more…]

Singing the airport’s praises

GA isn't what most people think it is: Certainly, it couldn't be a 10-year-old Madie Beckett at the controls of C140...right?

GA isn't what most people think it is: Certainly, it couldn't be a 10-year-old Madie Beckett at the controls of C140...right?

GA isn't what most people think it is: Certainly, it couldn't be a 10-year-old Madie Beckett at the controls of C140...right?

It may seem odd to some, but I love spending time at the airport. Sure, pilots and aircraft mechanics understand the allure of the airport. But the average Jane or Joe may think it a little peculiar that a grown man has an interest in going to the airport whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Part of that disconnect is that I, like most general aviation pilots, have an entirely different relationship with the airport than my non-aviation-oriented neighbors do. This divergence of views is perfectly understandable, really, because the word, “airport” is an entirely subjective term in the real world.

While I envision smiles and casual conversation over coffee with like-minded friends, my neighbors imagine long lines and metal detectors. On any given day I might wander out onto the ramp to inspect a new acquaintance’s airplane, yet the wider public thinks of crowded terminals, funky conveyor belts moving passengers past the throngs as if they were all just generic goods on an assembly line, and gate areas that are anything but inviting. [Read more…]