Sunrise Over the Fuel Farm

5:30 am. Monday morning. Styrfoam cup of coffee. Faint smell of jet fuel in my shirt. Hair doesn’t smell like jet wash yet. Feet on the old metal desk, leaning back in the metal chair. The handful of pre-open morning orders done. Planes topped off. Last night’s pushed into their hangars, the flight line populated with early morning take offs.

5:45. Today it’s my turn. Jacket and cap on, a cup of coffee in each hand and a jelly doughnut in my teeth, I hop on bumper of the tractor-like tug as one of the other guys drives me over to the fuel trucks. He doesn’t stop completely, so I hop off while it’s still rolling, carefully protecting my coffee.

From atop truck #3, I open the hatch and stick the tank. It’s half empty. The smell of blue avgas is powerful, not like jet fuel, which is just souped-up kerosene.

Hopping in the cab of the truck, I fire up the engine, grind the old gears a bit and head to the other end of the airport. Behind the special services hangar, I pull up to the fuel farm – three 10,000-gallon above-ground tanks of fuel.

After hooking the fuel truck up to top it off for the day, I grab the stick used to measure the fuel level in the giant above-ground refueling tank and climb to the top. One cup of coffee goes on the catwalk, the other is clamped between my teeth. I open the hatch and check the fuel level in the tank. Finish the first coffee and walk to the catwalk between the tanks.

Picking up the other cup of coffee, I sit on the catwalk and swing my legs over the edge, arms over the rail, sniffing my chilly nose, enjoying the sunrise over runway 18-36.

The runway lights blink twice, then on. It’s 6:00 am, the tower crew is in and the small municipal airport is officially open for business. A whine on the other side of the ramp as the first jet of the morning winds up and taxis to the runway. The sun is just over the horizon and 905LC, a Cessna Citation owned by an insurance company races down the runway and takes off almost directly above my head, ending the early morning period of silence that precedes the airport opening.

There’s a funny story about that plane. It’s actually the second with that exact tail number. But another time for that tale.

What a great way to work through college. Four years at that job and I still drive past the airport, wondering if they’ll let me hook up a plane and push across the ramp into the hangar, just to see if I can still do it.

I’m pretty sure they’d look at me funny and say “no”.

– orig post, March, 2007