Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

And Speaking Of Power

When a Hornet taxis by your home airport

Every generation coins phrases that didn't exist a decade earlier. One of the iPhone Generation's is, "It was a YouTube kind of moment," meaning it was the kind of thing that should have been captured on video to share with the world. Last week, one of those moments had me trying to fish my phone out from under my five-point harness—and failing.

I was parked against one side of the run-up area doing a mag check. On the other side was a Cessna 172 parked right in the throat of the taxiway to the runway. I hate it when people block runway access like that, but as I was to find out, he didn't really have it blocked nearly as much as I thought he did.

We were the width of the taxiway apart with the space between us not big enough for any of the larger corporate jets on instrument flight rules (IFR), timed clearances to get through. The Cessna guy was being very inconsiderate.

Then, I looked back down the taxiway and saw a problem coming: unmistakable, canted, twin vertical tails outlined against a swirling plume of heat. An F/A-18 Hornet was headed in our direction and he was likely to get stuck in traffic because of the Cessna.

First, I should probably mention that we see Hornets in twos and fours every month or so. Usually, they're U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) birds from Yuma but tail codes often show they're from all over the country. To most of us, having them on the airport is a special treat and points out something you don't often think about.

Like most folks reading this, I've seen a lot of Hornets, but they're almost always in an air show/fly-in environment. So, when I'm running-up and a couple of Hornets taxi past to take off, it's an entirely different experience than at an air show.

To be sharing your home airport with a Hornet (or a Harrier, we get those, too) makes the airplane seem totally out of context. In our minds, they normally exist amidst the razzle dazzle of Oshkosh, etc., not right here on our neighborhood airport mixed in with the rest of us. And it's so cool, it's hard to describe.

As the Hornet taxied closer, I heard the tower ask him if he could make it to the runway, which I doubted. But, his oxygen mask-muffled voice replied, "Roger." I looked at the ever-growing image of the Hornet coming at us. I looked over at the Cessna. I thought, "Zowie! This is going to be close!"

I've stood under a Hornet, or I've been parked in the run-up area as they taxied past a lot of times, but I never really noticed how big they are because they weren't that close. However, when you're strapped into your little airplane and one is trying to squeeze past you, it's positively huge! And awe-inspiring! It reaches in and touches a part of your being that isn't often touched.


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