Aircraft—Big Sandy unicom…Piper warrior…seven…three…seven…November…Charlie…flight of two…5 miles northeast inbound for landing…airport advisory please…
Unicom—Winds…230 at 10 knots…favoring 21…no other reported traffic…
I Love This Country
Sometimes military training planes will call in that way but a Piper Warrior and a Cessna 172 are not going to be military. As the pilots landed and taxied to the ramp they asked me where to park for fuel and said they would like to ‘grab a bite to eat’ as well. I told them to park in front of the flag poles, I could fuel them from there and they would be away from the pumps if we got any helicopter business while they were eating.t’s kind of unusual for planes to be flying in pairs-‘flight of two’ as the pilot called to the unicom.
I have three flag poles here at the airport. Since this is a federal and state funded airport I always try to make sure to have a new American flag and a new state flag flying all year long. I love seeing ‘old glory’ flapping in the wind. I think an American flag blowing in the wind is a beautiful sight.
I remember during my school days saying the pledge of allegiance each day in class and I remember the big flag pole on the school grounds at Warfield. Our flag pole was a homemade pole from gas pipe, the pipes tapered down as it reached toward the heavens. It must have been 40 feet tall or better, painted with aluminum paint, it wasn’t fancy like today’s expensive ones but I always thought it was impressive with a flag flying on it. I have no idea who made it but they did a good job, it stood for years.
Once the flag had a tear in it and it overlapped the top of the flag pole and you couldn’t bring it down…it was stuck. Not wanting to force the rope and break it, I watched a high school student shimmy all the way to the top of the pole and unhook the flag. Shimmy all the way back down, like it was nothing. The next day I tried to shimmy it myself and couldn’t make it 5 feet off the ground. Don’t remember who that guy was but he had some strength-and nerve!
The first time I ever remember a flag being flown at half-staff was when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in the fourth grade and my teacher called us in from recess, with tears in her eyes she told us about President Kennedy. At the close of school that day I remember the flag being lowered by our high school principal, Russell Stepp, a WWII veteran, around him were some other teachers. Being so young, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation but I could feel something big was happening.
After the pilots got finished eating and came to pay for their fuel I found out why they were flying ‘together’. The pilot flying the Piper Warrior was a flight instructor and the guy flying the Cessna was his student. They were flying the planes from New Jersey to Texas, the Cessna 172 had been sold and the instructor was using the ferry flight as cross-country instruction for his student. After they got the Cessna to Texas they were going to fly the Piper back to New Jersey.
The student pilot was from Venezuela. He asked me all kinds of questions about the airport and he was very interested in our state. He had heard of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Fried Chicken and he asked questions I didn’t know the answers to. He really liked walking around the airport looking at the pictures I have on the wall of different people, airplanes and helicopters.
In a strong Latin accent he told me he had been training in the USA for about three months, mostly in New Jersey. He was very excited he got the chance to do this cross-country trip and he was getting to see so much of our country. He couldn’t get over how big our country was and how diverse the land was he was flying over. He thought West Virginia’s mountains were beautiful and he was hoping to see ‘bluegrass’. He was pretty disappointed when I told him it wouldn’t look blue to him that bluegrass was a type of grass that looks deep green.
As he was walking around the airport asking questions he noticed my old American flags I have stored. My new friend from Venezuela asked me why I have my flags folded that way and what was I doing with them. I told him, “When I change out the flags I keep the old ones properly folded in a triangle and I store them in an old WWII arsenal basket until they can be properly burned by our AmVets.” I keep most in the basket with three on top of the basket. Nita Collier, a good friend of mine, found this basket which was used during WWII to carry artillery shells, at a flea market in Flordia. I think it makes a nice patroitic display, a basket that was used in the war and the flags that flew over our airport.
He was surprised that I said the flags would be properly burned. He thought it was disrespectful to burn an American flag, as he had seen on TV before. I told him he was right. To burn an American flag in the streets is disrespectful to our flag and nation but an old worn flag could be respectfully burned by our AmVets and that’s how it should be disposed of.
He still looked a little confused when he asked, “I would like to buy one of your old flags.”
“Why do you want one of my American flags?” I asked.
“I love your country, I love everything I know about America and I would love to take a flag that has flown at an airport in America home with me.” He said.
We looked at each other for a few seconds, I honestly think he was sincere in what he said and why he wanted my flag. This happened about 12 years ago, before Venezuela’s leader had destroyed his country. I really don’t know what the people of Venezuela thought of America back then or today but in my heart I believe most people in this world still respect America as a beacon of freedom. Not the political leaders of certain countries but their citizens.
I would never sell one of the old airport flags but I did give him one, with the promise that my flag would always be treated with respect.
Both pilots loaded up and taxied to the runway, full of food, full of fuel and one old worn American flag on their way to Texas. I will never know the ‘rest of the story’ but I do believe that young man was sincere about America and will take care of that old flag.
Aircraft—Big Sandy unicom…flight of two departing 21 to the southwest…
Unicom—Winds calm…Have a safe trip…thanks for stopping in…
(Gary Wayne Cox is airport manager of Big Sandy Regional Airport, owned by Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin and Martin Counties)