Feature Film: The FBO

Have any of you watched "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones? Just imagine camping out at a little FBO, in Naples, Florida, with no bags, in full CAPT uniform for more than 24 hours.

The rising action: After the exciting graduation and insightful visit from the Chief Pilot at ExpressJet, Captain Joe Seitz, Ryan, Kurt, Manoj and I hoped on a DA40 to burn off some LOFT time. After a careful weather analysis, we left X47 for what would be a clear, flight to Naples, Florida. Along the way around the Orlando area, we got into some IMC that bumped us quite a bit, but it wasn’t anything too bad. We got in around 1830 on Friday, 13th of June after a 2.6 hour flight and checked out the crew car to grab a quick dinner. After driving for a little while, we sat down at a Cheesecake Factory outside in the patio to only find ourselves getting drenched by the pop up Florida Thunderstorms. Lightning was visible throughout the vicinity and with that observation, we headed back to the FBO to wait out for the weather to clear up. Prior to the FBO closing at 2200, we jumped in our aircraft at 2145, powered up, and just listened to the AWOS hoping for the best. The lightning had stopped, but the cloud layer was coming in like a fog of war. The AWOS was calling for a cloud layer that was below the minimum approach MDA. A limitation in the CAPT FOM states that a crew cannot takeoff if the ceiling is reported as being lower than the lowest altitude on an instrument approach. On our way back to the FBO, we actually heard a Falcon Jet go missed because the soup was just so thick! Apparently because of that, a CRJ200 diverted to another airport due to the WX. Being unlucky on Friday the Thirteenth, we shut down and just sat ourselves outside on the benches underneath the awning, waiting. Around 2300 or so, we were approached by some good men of the FBO and were offered to come inside and stay in the Pilot Lounge. We couldn't get enough of it. We moved sofas around and finally got comfortable. Looking forward to departing early in the morning on Saturday, we went to sleep with knowing that the TAFs were calling for good weather. That couch wasn’t comfortable at all, but it was something! Thanks for the mouthwash in the bathroom. I went to sleep thinking that I love adventure.

We awoke to winds howling and people bustling around the FBO. After checking the WX, the TAFs said that the winds wouldn’t calm down until 1800. Hoping that the WX would change, I grabbed whatever caffeine I could to help me for the flight home (Venti Java Chip from Starbucks). I ended up passing out on the recliner for a couple of hours while the other guys just watched television. I caught the last part of Conan: The Destroyer on HBO which was interesting. Throughout the day, we met some interesting pilots and two that come to mind were NetJets pilots. Chuck Fox and Eric Knott both were really cool to talk to. They even gave us a tour of their Citation XLS and that probably made our trip worth while. It’s always nice to talk to really happy pilots that enjoy what they do. You can’t blame the bitter ones for the position that they are in, but I like to remain as positive as I can. I’ll tell you though, it can be really difficult at times. I hope that I won’t ever be that way.

Finally, as the night wore on, we ended up eating at Dairy Queen for a snack, and then headed over to Mickel Bobs for “America’s Finest Ribs.” We saw it on along the road, and kind of laughed at the assumption that they made. After Gordon a pilot from AirNow and Tonya, a dispatcher from CAPT recommend the place we decided to give it a try. The ribs were soft and the coleslaw was great! Good stuff. We did have BBQ from Woody’s at graduation again, so I guess the whole BBQ thing was kind of played out for me.

Sitting around at 1900 once again in the Pilot Lounge, the ATIS was still reporting some gusty winds. Still a no go per CAPT FOM which states that a crew cannot leave with winds gusting greater than 20 knots. It’s a good limitation, but I guess it seemed as if, we would be able to handle the situation and takeoff safely. Oh well, we the TAF was calling now for 2100 calm winds. Did it happen…nope…what can you do with unforecasted weather. Nothing apparently besides just wait and watch some football. Finally nearing close again, we were forced to just hang outside this time around, but I made friend with Joy and Chris from the European-American Flight School next to the Naples Air Center where we were hanging out all day. They were a blast to talk to and were surprised at how well and disciplined we were for abiding to our FOM.

Finally, after the executive decision was made to stay, we got a room for $55.00 at some local in. I was able to ask them for a student-pilot discount and she was kind of nice. Prior to leaving the FBO, the front clerk called for us and she said that they were charging $119 for a room. I guess we were lucky!

We left the next morning as early as we could and caught a $10 cabbie ride to the Naples Air Center. There was a good headwind forecasted the entire way up. I logged 2.8 hrs on the Hobbs and was happy that I was once again able to take a shower and sleep on my own bed. I took a 6 hour nap and studied the rest of the night to only find out that we were able to postpone the test for Tuesday. So, with that being said, I should get back to studying my 121 Regulations (CAPT 501 Final). On another note, I love the CAPT 504 course too. The FMS system is awesome. I just wish that we were able to actually press some buttons to get familiar with …