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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Wischful Thinking

by Jay Wischkaemper

On a recent trip to Dallas, I found myself in the vicinity of Addison airport around lunch. Addison is a busy, thriving airport in North Dallas, and a fascinating place. Several years ago, I found myself in Dallas to take an exam for a professional designation, and the exam site was just across the road from Addison. The exam was at 1:30, and I felt like I had studied enough to pass. I figured the best thing I could do that morning was to relax my mind. What better way for an airplane nut to relax his mind than by wandering through an airport?

I spent close to three hours that morning roaming through the bowels of Addison. I had driven by Addison numerous times and knew it was a big place, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Every time I turned a corner, there would be another hangar full of aviation marvels. Large hangars held gaggles of jets. General aviation planes of all varieties appeared around every bend. At the time, there was an interesting facility called “Friendly Aviation.” Since it was a front for the DEA aviation operation, it was anything but. If you happened into the door, you quickly found out this was a place you weren’t supposed to be. But in spite of that, Addison is an airplane lovers Disneyland.

Addison is an eclectic place. There is a lot of jet traffic, both local and transient, with ultra modern facilities to handle them. G-IV’s and V’s, Challengers, Lears, and a variety of other heavy iron are common. The day I was there, there was even an executive DC9 parked on one of the ramps. It is a business jet parking lot. A common sight is a jet sucking up its gear and streaking low across the tops of the office buildings south of the field, bound for who knows where. Beautiful. But coexisting with that traffic is the traffic from a number of flight schools housed on the field. If a student learns to fly here, in the middle of Class B and in the shadow of DFW and Love field, they should be comfortable flying anywhere.

On this particular day, I decided I would go to a fast food joint to get something to eat, park and watch the arrivals on runway 15 while I ate. Addison is one of those airports that the town has built up around, and is fairly confined so it’s difficult to really find a good vantage point to view the runway. Traveling down a road on the perimeter of the airport, I spotted what I thought was the perfect spot for my airplane watching. Directly across from the approach end of runway 15 was a strip office center with parking in front. I figured I could come back there, back into a parking space, and have a perfect view.

Midway Road, which borders the field on the west, has a variety of eating establishments. Since I hadn’t visited the Colonel lately, I made that choice and after retrieving my Number 5 Combo, went back to park at my selected vantage point. It was about 12:45 by the time I got my food. As I pulled into the parking lot of the strip center to find my spot, there was a strange sight. I wondered why all these cars were backed into parking spaces facing west. Then I discovered that my idea to watch the arrivals from that parking lot was far from original. Half the spaces in the lot were filled with people doing exactly what I had intended to do, and most of the rest were taken by people who had a legitimate reason for being there. They weren’t all eating lunch, probably because they had already finished, but they were there getting their aviation fix. They were all ages, men and women, sitting in all types of vehicles. Flying nuts one and all.

As I drove through the parking lot, unsuccessfully looking for a place to park, I wondered what it is about an airplane that would make otherwise perfectly normal people do a thing like that. After all, an airplane is just a machine. It’s a collection of metal pieces held together by screws and rivets, and in some cases, if you’re special, glue and nails. It’s nothing but a transportation vehicle, like a car and a motorcycle. But you don’t see people backed into a parking space next to a highway just to watch cars and motorcycles go by. Trucks and trains don’t get that treatment either. No, an airplane is more than just a transportation vehicle. There is a magic to flying. A romance. Always has been. Always will be. It’s the same magic that used to cause people to come out to pastures to watch the old barnstormers after they would fly over the town.

There is something special about seeing the world from a different perspective. There is the feeling of power in the ability to see the world from a vantage point that those poor ground-bound souls will never experience. There is the feeling of freedom that releases you from being confined to two-dimensional movement. There is the feeling of speed as you race above the ground at a pace that in any other vehicle would be illegal. There are feelings and experiences that nothing but an airplane can provide, and therein lies the magnet that attracts the interest. That is why people sit in parking lots during their lunch hour to watch airplanes land.

Some of those people were probably not even pilots. Perhaps they wished they could be, and this was the closest they could come. Some, like myself, probably were, and simply can’t get enough of being around airplanes, and enjoy watching a good approach culminate in what at least from outside the cockpit appears to be a good landing. Whatever their background, whatever their perspective, whatever their reason for being there, I’m sure the parking lot was full the next day too.

Jay Wischkaemper is a successful MassMutual life insurance agent based in Lubbock. He is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for business and pleasure.

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