Tips on Tipping

When I was a teenager learning to fly I spent a fair amount of time working as a line boy at Teterboro Airport. I don't think I ever deserved a tip, but I appreciated every time somebody thought enough of the job I did to hand me a few crisp dollar bills.

You may have wondered about tipping etiquette when you fly. Should you tip the guy who fuels your airplane? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. Tips are always welcomed by line personnel, since those few extra dollars in their pocket can make a real difference in supplementing meager hourly pay.

How about the guy at the FBO who marshals you in for parking? That's a judgment call on your part, but piston airplane pilots rarely tipped us just for waving our hands. Maybe it's because we always made the little Cessnas and Pipers park way down the ramp, far away from the fuel-hungry private jets.

So, back to me not deserving tips. I was a hard worker, but I just wasn't cut out to be a line boy. My first time towing a Learjet with the tug I forgot to remove the chocks from the nosewheel. Seeing the pointy end of that jet rise up as I gunned the engine and pulled it up and right over the front chock sure was a surprise.

Then there was the time I was perched on a step ladder fueling a King Air and got my thumb stuck in the fuel nozzle. Jet-A kept right on coming, spilling out over onto the wing. In a panic I flung the fuel hose halfway across the ramp, in the process spraying myself in the face with fuel. The nozzle landed with a thud a few feet from the startled pilots. Oops.

I also once forgot to put one fuel cap back on a Baron at the end of a long shift. Of course it rained that night. Heavy rain. Torrential rain. Thankfully the airplane wasn't due to fly. Assisting my boss, I got the chance to experience what's it's like to drain the avgas out of a light twin.

Not everything that went wrong on the line was my fault, mind you. Like the time we accidentally sent the wing of a Hawker smashing through a hangar wall while repositioning the airplane. That one was actually my boss's fault since he was walking that wing. I dunno, maybe he was too busy keeping an eye on me.

An image that is etched into my brain is the time we were attempting to empty the lavatory on a large business jet. Somehow the connection to the lavatory hold came undone, dumping the entire contents onto two of my coworkers.

Disgusting? Yes. Worthy of a tip? Oh yes. Funny? My goodness, absolutely.

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