What Covid-19 Didn’t Steal From Me

By Robert Mark on April 13th, 2021

by Micah Engber, contributor

(Listen to the audio)

In some ways, I’m very fortunate. Some of you know this from listening to my ramblings as I muse along on The Airplane Geeks Podcast. Sometimes it might be on The Airline Pilot Guy, or with Plane Talking UK. Occasionally you might even find me on The Plane Safety Podcast or with Leo LaPorte or Ron Ananian, The Car Doctor. Some even call me a podcast squatter.

Those of you who do know how this goes will know that I can go on and on. So why I’ve been asked to comment on my aviation life over the past year is both a mystery and well, maybe slightly anticipated. Not that I can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but maybe I can make a pigskin wallet.

What Did I miss?

In some ways, this year hasn’t been too terribly different from other years for me when it comes to aviation. Sure, I missed two events that are really important to me, events you may have heard about before.

There were the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar Hazy Center’s annual Innovations In Flight Day that was canceled in 2020. That event takes place every June and somehow or another, since its inception, The Airplane Geeks have been invited down to record a show, typically right in front of the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. Then we have a big meet-up with listeners that we hold in the evening at the Red Robin restaurant in Chantilly, Virginia. We’re still not sure if it will be happening in June 2021, but I already have my hotel reservations just in case.

And of course, there’s the Spurwink Farm Pancake Breakfast and Fly-In, sponsored by EAA Chapter 141 out of Limington, Maine. It takes place each year on the Sunday after 4 July in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and yes, on Spurwink Farm. On 364 other days out of the year, 365 on leap years, Spurwink Farm is a big horse pasture on the high bluffs looking over the Atlantic Ocean, but on this one day in July, it’s a soft grass strip where GA aircraft from all over the northeast USA fly in for breakfast. It’s not a big air show, it’s hangar talk and pancakes, and real Maine maple syrup. It’s all over by 14:00, but it’s a lot of fun. And where and when else can you be walking around getting close up to look at airplanes and helicopters while being careful not to step in horse-chips?

But those are my only really big aviation negatives, not so bad when I think about it. I mean yes, Farnborough would have been nice, and sure, the Great State of Maine Airshow would have been terrific. After all, the Great State of Maine Airshow organizer, who fouled up my passes last time, promised me a shot at interviewing the Blue Angels this year. But those events will happen again in the future, and neither are annual so it’s not like I missed out on anything in my normal life.

Before COVID

In my normal life, I don’t really have the opportunity to fly as often as I would like. I mean the last time I was flying was September of 2019 when I was in a PT-17 Stearman at the Owlshead Transportation Museum’s Wings and Wheels Spectacular. Talk about spectacular, I mean not only was it amazing to be in the front seat of the beautiful open cockpit Stearman biplane, but I got to attend that event with Max Flight, Producer Extraordinaire of The Airplane Geeks Podcast, who traveled up from Hartford, Connecticut to visit with me. But the point is if I get in the air once a year it’s a lot.

You may think that’s sad, but it’s not, not when you think about what I do have, and what Covid didn’t take away. I have KPWM, the Portland International Jetport practically in my backyard, about a mile away. It’s not a big airport but it is friendly. They have a spotting area right next to the MacJets FBO. That spotting area overlooks the main runway, 11/29 but you can also get a good look at 18/36. It’s a great place to park, drink a cup of coffee, and listen to Live ATC.

And there’s more! Jetport Plaza Road runs parallel to 11/29 and if you’re lucky while driving along on your way to wherever you can have your own race with an airplane on takeoff. Let me tell you though, while I’ve been in the lead many times, I’ve never won. I guess I should have gotten the turbo Subaru.

But I’m even more fortunate. I mentioned the MacJets FBO. What a great operation they run, and I’ve been lucky enough to make friends there. Every so often I’ll get a message saying guess what we have come to visit, why don’t you drop by. Ever see my Twitter home page, @Mainefly? That’s me in front of an A-10 Warthog at MacJets.

This year I was called to visit with a KC-135 Stratotanker, an Air Force and a Marine C‑130 Hercules, and a C-17 Globemaster III, The Moose itself. Ever get to see a C-17 back itself up under its own power? Ever hear one do that? What? I ASKED IF YOU EVER HEARD A C-17 BACKING UP UNDER ITS OWN POWER? WHAT? Well, you get the picture or can imagine the sound anyway.

But you know what else? Although the Portland Jetport isn’t a big major airport it is a pretty important regional. And while I don’t have the opportunity to fly out to visit my aviation friends as often as I would like, I’m lucky enough to have them visit me. Not as many this year as in the past, but again I was fortunate. My good friend Captain Craig who flies the Embraer Jungle Jets E-170 and 175’s for a regional that we’ll call Acme Junior was up this past October. Fortunately, it was still warm enough to eat outside and we went for some great Mexican food at El Rodeo in South Portland. That was the first time I was in a sit-down restaurant since March of 2020. Come to think of it, it was also the most recent time I actually ate at a restaurant.

Capt. Craig and the Other Folks

And yes, due to Covid a lot of my pilot friends were laid off, or as they say in the UK, made redundant. But others were rehired. A close friend of mine who was let go due to the pandemic was recently rehired for the same reason. She now flies turboprops for Acme Freight EU and has a regular route over the Eastern Mediterranean. I don’t know when she’s been happier.

Then there’s the good news Covid-19 aviation story that helps others. My good friend, Brian Coleman, former Associate Producer of The Airplane Geeks, started a small company to benefit the Pasadena Woman’s Shelter. TABFabric.com. TABFabric.com offers a lot of things for sale, but among them are airplane and aviation-themed masks to help keep us all safe. And yes, they work great on an airport tarmac too. Oh, and by the way, if you go to TABfabric.com and order a mask, Brian has set up a discount code for aviation fanatics like us. That code is LOVEAPG.

There’s more though, and I think I’ve saved the best for last. You see Covid‑19 had a good side too. A good side? Well yes! For example, I got a story out of it, you’re hearing or reading it now. And this isn’t the only story, have you heard Fire On the Launchpad? If not, check it out, on The Airplane Geeks Episode 635. I promise you a surprise ending.

But there are still more and even happier Covid-19 aviation outcomes. Look at all the aviation forums that opened up, look at all the connections that have been made, the people that got to know one another online, through Zoom and other platforms, people who never would have met otherwise. No, not that we’ve all met in person, but if and when we do we’ll be able to sit down together for a drink and/or a meal, knowing that we’re already friends, not wondering how we might get along. That’s pretty good.

So no, I don’t want to go through another year in a pandemic world, and I encourage all of you to get your vaccines as soon as you can. But as my people are apt to say: It could’ve been worse.

For Jetwhine, here in Portland Maine,

This is your Main(e) man, Micah

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