A350 and the FBO


Photo by Andrew Stricker

I recently had one of those weeks that reminds me just how lucky I am to be able to work where I do. Any time I get out onto the airfield is exciting, but getting onto the airfield twice in one week at two different airports? That’s nothing short of total awesomeness!

YAY 350!

A friend at Delta gave me a heads-up that one of their brand-new A350s would be doing some training flights into my airport. Sweet! We rarely see airplanes that large or that new, so this was definitely a big deal. Naturally I planned to go upstairs and watch it come in. Then I got an email from the Operations Manager asking if I’d like to ride out onto the airfield to see the arrival. Would I? Are you kidding me? Hell yes I would!


We hopped into one of the Ops vehicles about 15 minutes or so before the A350 was due to arrive. With a little help from our friends in the ATC tower we confirmed which runway would be used and got permission to position ourselves on a taxiway not too far from the anticipated touch-down point. We had to wait another few minutes before the A350 finally appeared in the distance. It got closer and closer and before we knew it the plane was roaring by us in all its glory. Best plane spotting moment EVER!


The plane wasn’t scheduled to stay long but thanks to that magic radio connection to ATC we were able to recommend a good parking spot on the east pad… which we immediately drove to so we could take more pics. There were several other vehicles circling the plane like sharks. Plus there were observers in the old snow tower and there was even someone from Ops on the terminal roof!

FullSizeRender (88)

After about ten minutes the A350 was ready to leave. We decided that just off the end of the runway would be the ideal location for viewing the departure.  We hopped out of the truck and watched as the plane came straight at us. Then it lifted into the air and flew directly over our heads.  There’s only one word to properly describe the entire experience: Wow!


FullSizeRender (87)So how do you top off a week that had such a stunning beginning? Why with a visit to the FBO, of course! At the cargo airport the FBO is run by the Authority so we are very involved with paying their bills and invoicing the airlines for their services. Getting to spend a few hours there was an important learning experience. And, of course, the avgeek in me was a kid in a candy store.

The original plan had been to help work a flight. Sadly the plane was delayed so that didn’t happen. But you know me – I wasn’t about to let that stop me from enjoying every moment I was there. We spent some time reviewing spreadsheets and other administrative items. Then we spent time chatting about life at the FBO. I learned that some airlines require four star hotels for their crews. Others have extensive catering requirements. Still others want flexible transportation options. And who makes all of this happen? Yep – your friendly FBO staff. It can definitely be a challenging job at times.


Then we headed out for a tour of the facilities and (at my request) the ground equipment. We got to see the large loaders they use for big cargo pallets and the tail stands they use to protect planes from tipping backwards during unloading. We got to examine tugs and fuel trucks. We even got to look inside the containers used for shipping horses. But then we got up close and personal with two of my favorite support vehicles…

Deice Trucks


We have two deice vehicles – one open bucket and one enclosed. I thought for sure that the enclosed one would be preferred. However, the FBO staff informed me that operating the enclosed deicer can be challenging. It’s hard to see out the windshield so they often have to open the side window, which means they get just as wet as they would in the open bucket. Plus they claim that using the hose is easier than using two joysticks. Since none of them were crazy enough to let me give the deicers a try I guess I’ll have to take their word for it.



Then came the moment of all moments: I got to open the door of the stairs truck and sit inside! I got to take pics! I got to touch the controls! I GOT TO SIT IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT! Sadly, I didn’t get to drive it. Doh! That’s OK though – I am one giant step closer to achieving that dream.

Do I have an awesome job or what? I may not love every aspect of what I do, but I sure love the heck out of where I work and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


16 thoughts on “A350 and the FBO

  1. I love your enthusiasm, Jen! Hopefully it will rub off on the other folks who work at your airport. I’m sure some of them are as gung ho about aviation as you are, but there are probably quite a few who are not as excited. It makes quite a difference in the atmosphere around an office or workplace, don’t you think?

    Happy holidays 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Ron! One of the fun things about visiting the FBO was the sense of enjoyment the employees got out of the fact that not only did we care enough to visit, but that I was so damn excited about what they do every day. (But they still think I’m crazy to love stairs trucks like I do. LOL!)


  2. Another GREAT article as always! That’s 1 of the few things I do miss about not working at the airport anymore, the ability of being there when things like an A350 suddenly shows up and I can grab my camera & shoot the daylights out of it plus having Ramp Access! So glad you were able to get out there & do that, it’s 1 of the BIG BENNY’S of working there. Also glad ya got down to the Cargo Airport & had a great visit there. Sure sorry I’m not working out there anymore to give you a ride around the ramp on the “Stairmaster’s” truck & teach you how to drive it. Have to tell you about the time 1 of the airline employee’s driving theirs forgot it had stairs on it & tried to take it through the tunnel that used to go down under the “B” Pier, didn’t quite make it through there, Whoops! Nice visiting with you at the “Cookie Caper” too. JET


    • Thanks so much for reading!!! It sounds like you have a lot of fun stories. I can’t wait to hear them! And who knows – maybe one of these days we’ll get a chance to cruise in a stairs truck together. Thanks for reminding me about the Cookie Caper. It was good to get away from my desk for a bit. And we saw a C-130! Bonus!


  3. Once again, you blow me away with your experiences and your prose. Someday, somewhere, some foolish person is going to leave the keys to the stairs-truck RIGHT where you can grab them. Film at 11.


  4. Jennifer, I’m glad that you got to see the A350 up close, and I’m glad you got to sit in the FBO stair truck and visualize (the day will someday come) driving and servicing it up to some exotic airplane door sill. Here is a great photo from the 1950’s of very stylish mobile stairs on an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellation at Chicago Midway. I don’t know the make and model, maybe Chrysler. The Lufthansa Technik group that’s restoring a Lockheed Starliner Constellation at Auburn Maine (10+ year project) has one of the same kind… eventually, I’ll get someone to look at it and try to identify its make, or maybe I’ll go myself on the magic future day that they finally get that Starliner to fly, after its having been on the ground there since 1983.

    Chicago Midway Airport - Eastern Air Lines - Loading Passengers



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