Contributing Editor Fred Simonds sent me a brief “There I Was” story that he published elsewhere. Not being one to let a good idea slip by without exploiting it, I’ve borrowed the topic and moral for these remarks. Here’s my “True Confessions” story.

Nobody checks NOTAMs for their home ‘drome, right? After all, we’re based there and know what’s happening—especially if we’re on a short trip where we just left the day before. Further inducing me to skip over my home NOTAMs, our airport had a runway and associated taxiways out of service for quite an extended time with no end in sight, so wading through all that to find something useful that ususally wasn’t there simply wasn’t worth the effort.

Until it was. (But you probably saw that coming, didn’t you?)

My wife and I had hopped into our airplane for a quick weekend getaway. We enjoyed the break and the flying was delightful. We got a bit of a late start for our return, but it really didn’t matter to anything other than our personal schedule. Or so we thought.

About 45 minutes from home, ATC asked us our intentions. After nervously checking that I was on course and on altitude, in my best, most professional voice, I responded, “Uh … we’re en route to Santa Fe.” ATC replied, “Santa Fe will be closed 15 minutes before you get there. Say intentions.” Again, replying in my deep, decisive airline-pilot voice, “Oh … uh … well … um … standby.”

I immediately pushed all the go-fast levers to the “go-fastest” position and waited for things to stabilize. I then checked fuel. I’d still—barely—have enough fuel, but I’d only cut a few minutes off of our arrival. Argh!

I stewed on this for a bit, cursing the airport for their last-minute closure (for runway resurfacing, which I later found out had been NOTAMed for days). I couldn’t figure out any options to let me get in, so I sheepishly called ATC. In my meekest I-screwed-up voice, I changed our destination to an airport about 50 miles short of where we really wanted to go. We were re-cleared and the rest of the now-abbreviated flight went uneventfully. I even pulled the go-fast levers back to the “save-money” position.

When we landed, late in the afternoon, the FBO was fortunately still open, but had no crew cars. So, I contacted my favorite car-rental agency and for only about $100 I could get a car delivered to me that I could keep overnight. They promised to get the car there in the next couple hours. How nice…

I had enough fuel for the planned one-leg flight that day, but the stop and subsequent departure would leave it a bit thin, so I’d need more fuel at about 50 more per gallon than the discounted rate I got at home. Anyway, the car showed up more or less on schedule, we drove the 75 miles home for the night, then drove back the next morning. We returned the car, bought the fuel, and flew the last leg back.

The final score was about four hours of lost time and a cost of over $150. I’m pretty sure you know the moral.

—Frank Bowlin


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