Aircraft—Big Sandy unicom…Citation six…two…six…Bravo…Charlie…ten miles to the northeast, inbound for landing…
I Left Too Soon
I’m usually open from dawn to dusk at Big Sandy Regional Airport, the exceptions being Sunday evenings and some holidays. When you run an airport like Big Sandy you never know when your business is coming or where it is coming from. It’s actually amazing how many times business comes at the last few minutes of the day or after I get home. It’s not unusual to be called out in the middle of the night for a medical flight, I was even called out on Christmas Eve for an air ambulance once. I get very little business late on Sundays though and that’s when our family gets together for dinner so that’s why I usually close at 6 o’clock on Sundays.
As I was leaving one Sunday evening I noticed some people sitting in the parking lot of the airport. That’s not unusual, people often come to Airport Road looking for elk and deer. Sometimes there will be 20 cars driving back and forth hoping to see the wildlife. Airport Road is a beautiful place with large meadows, beautiful sunsets and lots of wildlife. Owls, deer, wild turkeys, elk, I have even spotted a bear a few times, Airport Road has it all. I call Airport Road one of Eastern Kentucky’s best tourist attractions. I like to joke that I run the only zoo in America with a 5,000 foot runway in the middle of it.
I threw up my hand at the people sitting in the parking lot. They made no attempt to stop me and I had no idea they had people flying into the airport. I just waved and drove off, not realizing I knew the people in the parking lot, it was Jim and Cathy Presley from Martin County. Their daughter, Angaleena, is a successful song writer from Nashville and member of the group Pistol Annies, the group members are Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe and several times CMA entertainer of the year, Miranda Lambert. About a month earlier I had watched them perform on the CMA awards. My wife, Rossalene, and I enjoy watching the CMA awards each year and it was especially nice that year to see someone from home on the stage and doing so great.
Angaleena, after getting her degree from Eastern Kentucky University, decided to chase her dream of becoming a successful song writer and entertainer in Nashville. Her group the Pistol Annies has produced several albums, their debut album ‘Hell on Heels’ reached gold status in 2011, their album ‘Interstate Gospel’ was nominated for best country album at the 62nd Grammy Awards in 2018, with their latest album being a Christmas album released in 2021, ‘Hell of a Holiday’. Angaleena has performed at the Grand Ole Opry by herself and with the Pistol Annies. She has also performed at the CMA awards. When you get the opportunity to perform on all of Nashville’s biggest stages, I would say you have arrived! I have also seen her on several country music videos and a couple of talk shows too. Her hometown of Beauty, Kentucky has a road marker that says, “Beauty, home to Angaleena Presley, ‘Holler Annie’.
The group had been playing somewhere in the northeast and were returning to Nashville late one Sunday night, with a planned brief stop at Big Sandy Regional Airport.
Usually pilots needing services after dark call ahead at an airport the size of Big Sandy to make sure someone will be there. Either they didn’t call or I had already left for the evening. The plane didn’t land at BSRA until about 10 o’clock and I was long gone. Air Methods has a medical helicopter based at Big Sandy and it is in service 24/7. The pilot on call that night, Rodney Cox (no relation, he’s from Georgia) noticed the jet landing and pulling up to the terminal building. Rodney has a key to the building and went over to see if he could be of any assistance. Being a country music fan Rodney was shocked when he recognized the ladies on the jet. He opened the terminal and turned on the lights for our famous guests.
As usual after a long flight, most people, after saying hello, ask where the restrooms are located. Rodney showed them the facilities and chatted with the pilots. Angaleena had asked the jet to land at Big Sandy to pick-up her son, who was staying with her parents, Jim and Cathy. The ladies asked Rodney if we had a room where they could change into their pajamas. Since they would be so late returning to Nashville they would like to get comfortable and try to relax after such a long day on the last part of their flight. Rodney opened the conference room for our guests and they changed into their flannel PJ’s and were now ready to go home.
Obviously while changing into their PJ’s they must have discussed how nice Rodney had been to them. How he had taken care of all their needs, how he had gone out of his way and made their stop at Big Sandy a pleasant one. When leaving the conference room they rolled one of the conference room chairs out to the lobby, asked Rodney to sit in the chair and then asked for his phone.
I’m sure he was wondering what the ladies were up to. The ladies handed their pilot Rodney’s phone and then they gathered around him, leaning over and kissing his now red face while in their pajamas. The pilot took the picture and gave Rodney back his phone with a story he can tell for years to come.
The next morning, when I got to work and before I could get all the lights on, Rodney was standing in the lobby with the biggest grin on his face. “You left too soon Gary, you left too soon yesterday evening,” he said. Then he pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of him in his pilot’s uniform, sitting is a chair with a surprised look on his face, with three famous ladies planting kisses on both cheeks – all inside my airport!
Rodney was right, that’s one evening I left too soon!
Aircraft—Citation…six…two…six…Bravo…Charlie…departing 21… to the southwest…Thank you for your hospitality Big Sandy…
(Gary Wayne Cox is airport manager of Big Sandy Regional Airport owned by Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin and Martin Counties.)