Monday, February 16, 2009


There's one -- at least one -- at every grassroots airport I've ever visited: The rotting hulk of a dead or dying airplane, tires flat, paint peeling and fading, windshield crazed by sunlight and spattered with birdshit, engine intakes choked by animal nests.

What's the story? Did its owner tire of flying and just let his airplane sit and decay at its tiedown? Maybe he died and the estate never got around to selling the airplane. If the tiedown rent isn't paid, airport management can sue to sell the airplane and recover the costs. Maybe the cost of doing so -- hiring a lawyer to see the case through the courts -- far exceeds the salvage value of a corroded old wreck. It may just be easier to let the airplane molder for years until some natural disaster, like a housing tract developer, overwhelms the airport.

I have no idea how long that Cessna 172 has been sitting idle at Westosha Airport in Wilmot, Wisconsin. It has been there at least since 1993 when I started flight lessons, and it hasn't moved an inch. Neither has the equally bedraggled old Cessna 150 slumped at at a nearby tiedown.

They're awful eyesores, but after a while you just stop seeing them.

Their histories probably have been lost. What a pity. The tools and toys of men and women have stories to tell.

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