(July 2011) "Hey, Tom, ride up the road with me, would you?”
Beer in hand, Tom looked up from the picnic table in surprise. I explained that I wanted to talk to the pilot of a Sundowner that had just landed and was parked on the ramp at Hangar Two.
“This is, well, a little odd, but I want to know if the guy was by himself or had a passenger and I need a witness.” What I really meant was a bodyguard.
“Chances are it’s too late, but if the pilot’s still around I’ll talk to him while you just sort of stand around in the background.”
Tom, who’s about 6 feet 4 inches and built like a linebacker, still looked puzzled but folded himself into the front seat of my car. It was about 10 o’clock on a balmy Wednesday night, and the Flying Knights were gathered at their clubhouse on the south line at Lunken, across the ramp from my hangar. I had just taxied in, back from a seminar, when the ground controller said, “You just missed that Sundowner you wanted us to watch for. He landed about 10 minutes ago and taxied up ‘Charlie’ to Hangar Two.”
Tom and I sped up the road, I swiped my gate card, and we drove onto the big, dark, deserted ramp. The little Beech was tied down, but when I felt the cowling it was still warm. Then I noticed a car parked on the corner of the ramp in the shadow of the big brick hangar. We drove over, I rolled down my window, and, assuming my best Pollyanna persona, I beamed at the two people in the front seat.
“Hi! Sure is a beautiful night to go flying. That was probably you guys I heard inbound ahead of me. ... I landed a few minutes later. And that moon, wow! Is that a spectacular sight or what?”
“Yeah,” the driver answered.
“Joe Babis told me the other day that he’d sold the Sundowner. Nice airplane; I guess you’re the proud new owner?”
Then the sweet young thing cuddled close in the right seat chirped, “Nick and I flew to Portsmouth for dinner. It was totally awesome. Joe’s my uncle ... well, my granduncle ... and, like, I’m working for him this summer at the hangar. That’s how I met Nick, who’s a totally awesome pilot. (And totally, awesomely married, I knew.) So, like, don’t I know you?”
By now I was out of the car, hoping Tom was in position as I approached the driver’s side of the sedan.
“Yeah, we’ve probably met. I work up the road at the FAA office. Here’s my ID. Gee, I’m sorry to bother you guys with this stuff, but I need to see a pilot certificate and medical.”
“I told you, Nick. I told you. I told you that was Martha Lunken ... ”
Ninety-nine percent of the violations processed in FSDOs are paperwork exercises — dry, benign, boring stuff: An inspector sees some guy removing the propeller on his 172 and stops to check on his (nonexistent) A&P certificate; a 135 operator’s competitor turns him in for using an airplane not on his certificate; or a VFR pilot wanders into Class C airspace. The FAA’s not called a “paper tiger” for nothing.