I have a friend who, in addition to being a talented acro pilot, is a fledgling instructor and coach. He recently opened an Aerobatic Practice Area that borders the runway at Hammonton, NJ (N81), very underutilized airport. How underutilized you ask? Yesterday was a clear, crystal blue Sunday (Father's Day as a matter of fact) and during the 4 hours we were there, the only operation was a single helicopter that was based on the field. This box had been opened years before but was the subject of an unfortunate event that forced its closure. The airport was happy to see it go. They don't like aerobatics. And they don't seem to really like airplanes. They DO seem to like--and certainly accept--state and federal funds for improvements but only so long as those improvements don't interfere with the post-apocolyptic ambiance of the place.
Anyway my friend NOTAM'd his box and provided two spotters, once on box freq and one on unicom. I dove into the box and got some very solid, badly needed coaching. But having flown far to get there, after three stabs at the sequence I needed gas and a break before converting anymore carbon into noise. I asked the fueler for gas and was directed to his boss who I initially took to be the airport owner. He was not--the town owns the airport. Nor was he the manager. He ran the FBO and the local MX facility and therefore seemed to enjoy the power to deny fuel for my Pitts. He also denied fuel for my friend. An argument ensued where he was reminded that these planes don't carry much gas to begin with and he might share at least a portion of the responsibility should anything happen when we fly to the 20 miles to the next airport for fuel. He allowed us TWO gallons. (We took a little more than that). My friend has the support of the IAC and the FAA. He's got the situation covered and I believe he will soon have this whole thing resolved and our tyrannical mechanic will just have to suck it up. But I thought I would throw this out there as yet another example of how threatened our sport is by such little minds.
Jason Flood, who has reopened the practice box at Hammonton has already informed the FAA of the event and also the IAC through Bill Finegan. I think they will contact AOPA as well. When the box was last opened 4 or 5 years ago, there was an accident where a Yak in the box was T-boned by a Lancair. The Lancair pilot, a good friend of the Floods, was killed and the Yak pilot was severely injured by his loosely secured parachute harness. The box was closed and the airport suddenly took on a sullen, closed off aspect. Joe was denied access to his shop and most of the GA users relocated.
There was a town meeting last night and Mayor Steve DiDonato stated that, had he been there Sunday, He would have said, “Here’s five gallons! No get off my airport!”
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